- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 28 September 2016
- Written by MEAGHAN WHEELER | STAFF WRITER
Over the summer I was frequently in and out of cities all across the country. As I walked through the hustle and bustle of each city, a common pattern came to mind. We, as a society, have turned a blind eye to the homeless. I decided to test this “pattern” out. Last week while I was in New York City I walked to Bryant park and sat. I people watched, you could say. On each corner of Bryant park there are a few homeless men, women, children and dogs just laying with cardboard signs explaining how they got there. Some say veterans, some are business men beaten down by this economy and some are mothers. Person after person passed by without a blink of an eye.
I liked to call this the numbing bystander effect (NBE). Thousands of people walk by each of these homeless men, women and children every day and they are aware of these people, but we walk by. We all take part in the NBE—you look at your phone, at your shoes, you talk to the person next to you just to avoid that split second of eye contact with a destitute beggar on the ground. The NBE is a social psychological phenomenon where people will refuse to provide aid to a victim when other people are present. The less people there are, the more likely you are to jump in and help.
In urban areas, there are so many people around, that we all think “Oh, I’m sure someone else is helping them, they have to be, right?” The answer is no. We need to break the cycle. We cannot turn away. We cannot look down. We are the problem. People love to ask the question, “What is wrong with the world?” Well I am, we are. The problem will not disappear without us. We cannot merely dream of the solution. We must be the solution.
Another common excuse and stereotype is that all homeless people are alcoholics or drug addicts, so handing them my spare change or a dollar is just enabling the problem. Robert Ewanis, a senior accounting student, said “It boggles my mind when I have to battle my way through passing crowds to hand spare change to a veteran sitting in a corner freezing, while people passed not even blinking an eye.”
Has society adapted to the growing homeless population by having selective vision? These people are not invisible. If you are ignorant enough to believe that all of the homeless are addiction riddled bums, then I have a solution for you. Give them a gift card to McDonalds, or a pizzeria. Give them a chance to feed themselves; give them a warm meal. No more excuses. If that doesn’t interest you, then hand them your leftovers, some chips or an extra cookie. Extending a helping hand instead of turning your back can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
Victoria Petruzzella, a junior health studies student, said “Seeing others reach out a helping hand to the needy inspired me to do that same.”
Generosity is contagious! Corey Inzana, International Student Advisor for Global Education, shared that “Generosity creates a ripple effect. Monmouth University does try to prevent that ‘numbness’ to the homeless. We have events like Houseless Not Hopeless, [and] the Big Event on campus for a reason. It is the small deeds throughout our daily lives that lead to big needs. You never know how one small deed will affect someone’s day, or life”.
Are you a traveling businessman or woman who doesn’t have time to buy gift cards or give money? I am sure you constantly stay at hotels through your travels— drop them an extra toothbrush or mouth wash.
Do your job. Not as a tourist, a businessman, a mom, but as a human being.
IMAGE COURTESY of Meaghan Wheeler
IMAGE TAKEN from AOII Monmouth’s Instagram