Thu | Feb 20, 2020

Jerome Reynolds | Homelessness: No roof, or lacking self-love?

Published:Friday | February 14, 2020 | 12:21 AM

Many of us have never been homeless, but thousands of Jamaicans live this reality on streets, in open lots, and in abandoned structures.

A recent interaction with a homeless person struck a deep chord with me and caused me to reflect on life.

It further had me thinking more about how we live, our body and our relationship with it.

The popular tag line tells us that we should love the skin we’re in, but that can be a love-hate relationship for some.

My interaction conjured a thought in me that one can be homeless but still be at home within oneself; while that reverse can also exist, in that, one can live in a house but have no home.

Some of us don’t know what it is like to have no roof over our heads or have our next meal be tied to the generosity of a stranger.

We walk past the destitute with ease, we ignore them when they approach us, and we pass judgement of a life that we presumed was wasted.

We believe that he or she did something to put themselves in that position and, as such, we are justified in our dismissal of them.

FAR FROM JUSTICE

It is rather perplexing and sad that one of the places that many homeless Jamaicans make their abode is in Justice Square in downtown Kingston.

For decades, homeless men and women have lived close to constitutionally protected institutions, yet they remain far from justice.

I guess it is okay for the purveyors of justice to turn a blind eye to the human degradation because those persons are not honourable or a learned friend.

A homeless woman approached me for money at a bus stop recently, but because I was accustomed to her usual begging, I felt I didn’t need to acknowledge her.

It was in ignoring her pleas for money to buy food that I had an epiphany. It dawned on me that I didn’t recognise her humanity and that I had dismissed her as a bother.

In doing so, I had rendered her invisible and unworthy of a kind gesture or offering.

We have all benefited from the kindness of friends, family and even strangers, but fail to pay it forward.

What hit me from the interaction is the feeling of invisible and rejection.

How many of us have mirrors all around, whether in our houses, offices or on our cell phone screens, but see no ­reflection – much like a vampire – because our ­humanness was not, or has never been, acknowledged or appreciated.

We are told that our body is a living ­temple but do we all worship at our own altar.

Is your body a house or a home?

This requires deep contemplation as to how one wants to live in that structure.

It is the dream of many to own ‘a big house on the hills, ’but we can sometimes lose ourselves in the chase.

We can’t lose sight of what’s important and how to preserve it.

PLACE OF REFUGE

One possession that can’t be taken away, whether homeless or otherwise, is an individual’s personhood and the body that houses that soul.

The body as a house is inherent, given by virtue of birth, but the construction of that shelter is a lifelong journey.

Homelessness can befall anyone of us through the all-too-common house fire or through eviction after falling on hard times.

Some are lucky to find alternative shelter, but others have nowhere else to turn; and it is at that point the cold sidewalk or bench or even under a bridge becomes the place of refuge.

All creatures, including humans, need food and shelter. It is important that we nourish ourselves on the right sustenance to keep ourselves grounded.

So as a house built on the sand will wash away, we have to build a resilience so as to keep the actual structure, as well as the body that inhabits the residence, on solid footing.

A happy home is not only the four walls, but is also about the state of the organ between the ears and the one that pumps life and is protected by the ribs.

We need to be mindful that we can have a house, but joy and peace are absent because we have not done the work to build up the owner with compassion and acceptance.

Without love there is no home, and that goes for the physical, concrete structure and the body that lays its head to rest at nights.

We must love thy self as we love thy neighbour, as it is in doing so that we don’t become homeless inside our houses.

Your body is your safe place, so make it your home, no matter where you are.

Email feedback to jerome.reynolds@gleanerjm.com and columns@gleanerjm.com.