We talk about the cure for cancer. And we can hope to eliminate childhood obesity.
We can say “no child left behind.” And we can fight global wars to stamp out terrorism.
But if we say… “end of homelessness,” heads cock sideways, eyes cross, minds scramble and the questions roll.
“You can’t say that,” I’m told. “No one will believe you are legitimate and realistic about your cause.”
“I’ve always understood homelessness as something that will always be among us,” they say. “How is it that you who spend your days with them, can think any differently?”
It may be true, that people will always be poor. It is guaranteed that someone will have a need. And its clear that some people have been trapped in their circumstances so long that they can’t see the prospect of doing anything any differently.
But does that mean we pour water on the mission and only work for what we believe to be possible?
Consider just reducing cancer-related deaths in the United States. How do we convince a patient that their odds are just as good as the next person?
We could work to minimize the number of children growing up to be overweight adults. What do we say to the parents who outlive their children because they weren’t part of the minimum?
Our slogan could be, “no child left behind, except the ones who want to be.” How do we inspire the youth and families of our generation to do any better for themselves.
We could even send soldiers into harms way just to “control” terrorism. But is that enough of a cause to sacrifice someone’s life?
When we talk about minimizing, reducing or anything but ending the ailments of our world, we are appealing to the status quo. Of course we want as few people as possible to die from cancer. Of course we want as many children as possible to grow up to be healthy, happy adults. OF COURSE we want any school child to graduate and go on to be a productive contributor. And by all means we want to limit the harm any person or group seeks to inflict on the world.
Minimizing, reducing, limiting–those are all things we do as human beings to find our place and our purpose. But ending something calls us to a much greater mission. It means that no one gets left out. It means that, when we’re done, our contribution to the cause will contribute to the path that someday will bring about an end to something. We may not live to see it; nor are our children guaranteed a life without one of troubles of our generation. But if we set the path for the moon, history proves we can get there one day. We ended slavery, we stopped segregation and when we got to the moon, we started planning for Mars.
So, yes, I talk about an end to homelessness. And when you look at all things we have ended in our past, I don’t think it is too much to ask for all people have a safe and sound place to sleep at night.