Yesterday, while walking to catch my homeboy, Guy Lockard’s show (plug plug plug, google google google) I saw a young lady offer a homeless man some food. She held the bag toward him as he rummaged through a corner trash bin, a white man with hands of soot and hard-time eyes.
He started yelling at her, and lunging toward her so much so that I, instinctively, stopped just in case the lady was in danger. The man walking next to me stopped as well and began to “shoo” the homeless man as if he was a rabid animal (which is a whole other blog post.) The homeless man was obviously mentally ill, and his illness seemed to prevent him from accepting help, though he needed it so desperately (I have to believe that whatever was in the bag the woman was trying to hand him was leaps better than what was in that trash can.)
The rest of the walk to Guy’s show, I thought about that scenario and how it relates to me, as the helper, and the homeless.
As a helper I think I’m fine. I do my best to lend a hand, an ear, a shoulder when I can, and though I’m far from perfect (I’ve been known to drop a ball or two) I’m proficient and I’m working to improve.
But as the “homeless,” or the one in need of help, I react much like he did. I often combat it, protect myself from it as if help is hate wrapped in a smile. I don’t want the free sandwich. I’d rather dig through the cans, through every trash until I’ve constructed a mediocre sandwich out of scraps. But why? Pride? Yep. Ego? Definitely. An inflated sense of survival skills? Possibly.
But what if all those things, pride, ego, etc, when left to roam uncontrollably, so much so that you’re willing to hurt, to suffer, to starve because of them, are symptomatic to mental illness. I mean, when I saw the homeless guy reject the food — the help — I undoubtedly concluded that he was ill. Why should I, or you, be seen as any different?
Something to think about.
Note: This is in no way meant to make light of diagnosed mental illness. Instead it’s meant to encourage us to think about mental illness as more of a “we” thing, instead of an “us-them” thing. This is also isn’t to endorse the over-diagnosis of mental illnesses as well. We all remember the ADHD fiasco. All I’m really trying to say is, learn to take help when you need it.