01 October 2010

Sleeping Rough


How would my grandparents have responded to the idea of hundreds of young people in Indiana sleeping in cardboard boxes through a cold Fall night to highlight the reality of homelessness in their community?

How would pioneering Aucklanders view leaders in Auckland sleeping in a covered carpark overnight to raise money for those who sleep rough most nights of the year? bigsleepout.org.nz

I'm not saying these initiatives are a bad idea. I'm just saying they are ideas of our times, they are experiential initiatives to not only aid the uncomfortable, but to involve the comfortable.

Having traveled in several impoverished communities and countries, I know we are often made uncomfortable just by seeing poverty, and comparing the foreign reality to our own.

Taking into account the degrees of poverty, the fear and vulnerability that accompany poverty, we must acknowledge that there is no strict dichotomy between poverty and wealth. It is more of a continuum not easily delineated by an outside judge.

You may have heard stories of people who stand outside their burning home grateful that they had each other, that no one had been physically hurt or killed. You may have visited villages where the people seemed to have nothing, but were joyful and content. You may have seen photos of boys playing soccer with a ball made of tightly wound plastic bags, yet they played as if it were a World Cup event!

We can compare similar sized earthquakes in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and in Christchurch, NZ, and see the difference in the scale of devastation in buildings and infra-structure. What we cannot see is the fear and the insecurity of the people who survived these terrible disasters.

I've traversed an odd path from kids sleeping in refrigerator boxes in Indiana to people's homes collapsing around them; from professionals sleeping on hard ground to people who can trust the ground upon which they stand.

I think my original point was more of how my grandparents would gladly have given money to the poor rather than go out and find a box of their own for a temporary solidarity.

Maybe it is that solidarity that people are looking for. Maybe that's why we go on benevolence trips and organise concerts, because we are after the community of experiencing things together and expressing ourselves together, and feeling part of something bigger than what our meagre monetary donation might suggest.

Aucklanders: Join the LIFEWISE BIG SLEEPOUT on October 14.
Sleep rough for one night and taste the reality facing Auckland’s homeless.

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