A World Without Racism is Kind
Kindness Toward People Experiencing Homelessness
Although direct contacts, friends, and family members immediately come to mind as potential recipients of our kindness, it is important to not undervalue the impact of compassion on strangers. Fear and distrust often keep people apart, but in the end, we are all human. One particular population that is often overlooked, but would benefit greatly from interpersonal kindness, are people experiencing homelessness.
Psychologist and professor Dr. Mica B. Estrada describes the nature of the bystander effect, in which large groups of people do not act in unjust situations due to the transfer of responsibility to others. The result is inaction, as each person expects the other to take the next step. In the case of people experiencing homelessness, this can mean ignoring the presence of these people or a collective lack of response to their needs.
Estrada mentions a few ways in which we can work to change this mindset, and as a result, eventually making a difference within the homeless community.
One way through which we can change our mindset is through reframing. This is the practice of consciously acknowledging our negative or outdated ways of thinking, and intentionally ‘reframing’ our mindset to be one of positivity, understanding, and compassion. For example, instead of walking by a person experiencing homelessness on the corner and maybe thinking “I don’t want to give money to that person because they will probably use it to buy drugs,” one might reframe their thinking instead to be “People experience homelessness for numerous reasons. Who am I to judge how they got there? I don’t feel comfortable offering them money, but I can always smile, acknowledge their existence, and show them kindness because they are human beings too.” This subtle shift over time becomes a habit and begins an incredible domino effect of kindness in our world.
Another aspect is witnessing real change. When dealing with large societal issues such as homelessness, it is easy to feel discouraged. One way to fight this is by witnessing real change occur. This can happen in many ways including volunteering at a soup kitchen or getting involved with organizations that assist in the rehousing of people experiencing homelessness. Once our efforts become more tangible, it becomes easier to continue with kindness and grow our efforts.
Through reframing and immersing oneself in the solution, the shift from bystander to participant becomes inevitable. By integrating kindness into our interactions with others, especially the less fortunate, our efforts are sure to make a positive change within the community.