A video has been making the rounds this week, in preparation for Veterans Day, depicting the makeover of a homeless veteran named Jim Wolf under the headline “This Incredible Time-Lapse Shows Us How Dignity And Respect Can Change A Man”. The paragraph above the video makes a couple of important points, so I’m going to quote the whole thing here:
There are more than 60,000 veterans homeless in America. We are not going to reduce that number with superficial changes and quick fixes. But what struck me about this time-lapse video is how treating someone with a little dignity and respect could change not only the man but how we see and feel for him.
Point 1: “more than 60,000 veterans homeless in America”. That is a national disgrace. Some estimate that 1 in 4 homeless people in America is a veteran. There are more homeless veterans in this country today than at any time since the Great Depression. If that doesn’t make you at least a little sick and a little angry, then you probably want to stop reading here. Because if you read on. I’m going to suggest some things you and I need to do about it.
Point 2: “We are not going to reduce that number with superficial changes and quick fixes.” It’s great to post stuff on social media about thanking our veterans and supporting our troops, but posting and “liking” things on Facebook doesn’t give one single veteran shelter. It doesn’t help one single soldier with PTSD get help. Talk is cheap, and mouse clicks are even cheaper. Giving a homeless person a makeover or a new suit might help a little, but it isn’t going to solve the problem. But better funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs will. Concerted effort to address the physical, emotional and economic needs of the homeless will. Making a national commitment to the ideals Abraham Lincoln lifted up in his second inaugural address will:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” –Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865
A movement of ordinary Americans taking concrete steps to know the victims of homelessness, to understand their problems and to provide resources to address them can and will end this national disgrace. If you believe the government should be doing more, great. Find out who your congressional representative is and write to them. Then find the contact information for the two senators representing your state and write to them. And keep writing them, every week, until they figure out that you mean business. If you don’t believe in government solutions to this problem, that’s fine, too. Follow this link to a list of veterans’ service organizations, find one in your community and volunteer. Follow this one to find your nearest VA medical center, contact the chaplain or the volunteer coordinator and offer your time. Encourage your church to host a homeless shelter. Work as tirelessly for our veterans as they worked for us; sacrifice as much for them as they sacrificed for us. Because THAT is what is going to solve this disgrace. And if your work just happens to help some homeless people who aren’t veterans, and if it just happens to make your community a better place to live, and if it just happens to ensure that more people are treated with dignity and respect, so be it. Which brings me to…
Point 3: “…treating someone with a little dignity and respect could change not only the man but how we see and feel for him.” Jim Wolf was just as worthy of dignity and respect before he sat down in that chair as he was after the makeover. He was deserving of dignity and respect not just because he is a veteran, but because he is a human being, a beloved child of God created in the image of God. The same is true for every homeless person in your community. Every hungry child going to bed at night with an empty belly. Every strung-out junkie and every prostitute and every drunk sleeping on a steam grate and every person on this planet. If we feel differently about Jim Wolf at the end of the video than we did before the video was made, then he’s not the one in need of a makeover; we are.