Jeffrey Wanzer-Dupra: Supporting those in need
It is with clenched teeth and hot blood that I read the recent print regarding the Nevada City warming shelter, and the alleged failures of Sierra Roots to furnish an emergency solution.
In our community, as in others, there are clearly individuals willing to cloak their own interests and opinions in the spirit of altruism. Emboldened by the access to others that is allotted them through various social media platforms, they engage in what has become a national pastime; they point out the existence of a problem, and mistake their easy, obvious actions, as being part of a solution.
Janice O’Brien, Keith Cantrell and Sierra Roots, show up everyday to provide help and dignity to homeless members of our community. They come out when the sun shines and when the rain falls. They serve meals on holidays and every other day when most of us are driving alone in cars built for passengers, failing to notice the very people — the homeless — that we allege to care so much about when the rain and snow start to fall.
That Sierra Roots — or any other organization or individual — cannot do all things at all times, and it is not a travesty to be exploited for favor, attention, or social or political gain; it is a reality and a symptom of being human. Homelessness exists. Suffering exists. It is no one’s fault. For every finger that is pointed in this community at a person, or an organization who is not doing ‘something,’ there are others, people and organizations, who are doing all that they can. Indeed there are not enough fingers or hands to point them all out.
When you work with people who bare their suffering for lack of walls and roofs to conceal it, you find, inevitably, that your own suffering, your own vulnerabilities, are in course so revealed. A human flame is clearly being burned between us.
As a community, if we fail to support those who are in need of life’s most basic remedies; food, shelter, clothing, dignity, it is a collective failure. Let us not give up our power so cheaply or so easily — we are better than that — so as to cast mere blame at the feet of a few elected officials, or individuals who have made the hard choice to stand up and do something about it.
Likewise it is an easy attempt at a solution to think and to suggest that things, shelters and sleeping bags, socks and services, are all it will take to lift people out of homelessness.
It takes much mightier sacrifices, and greater commitments. People need other people to heal; they need love and trust, hope and friendship. The task is bigger than government. It is our problem, all of ours, and some of the hardest work is taking stock of and owning what we have done and not done, and what we will do and not do, to be a part, a small, mighty, part of the solution.
If you have the courage to listen, we are being asked to do what we can, when we can do it. You can stand back at great distance and such words seem quite small. Or you can take a step, right up close, so close that you can feel the flame, and see how big they can be.
Jeffrey Wanzer-Dupra lives in Nevada City.
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