I’ve heard it said that if you stay silent in a moment of wrong-doing, then you’re condoning the behavior being done. Then you’re a part of the problem.
I remember a few years ago, the military rolled out “OP HONOR” which was their response to an obvious problem of sexual misconduct within the Forces. Every single person in the CAF had to take training and it was around inappropriate talk/comments/jokes at work and respect to all. We had to take a “Respect in the Workforce” and later “Bystander Training”. When I was getting ready to take the training, one of the Captains in my unit was telling me about his course. There was a Warrant Officer in his course who just did not get it. He didn’t understand or believe there was a problem with either jokes or comments in the work place that were either sexual or trans/homophobic. Another WO sitting next to him was SO furious about this other person, he advised the instructor to move him otherwise there was going to be a physical altercation. These “hard army senior NCM’s” always seem to be the problem with that mentality – or so I’ve noticed but definitely is not limited to!
This is an example of someone who is a part of the problem.
If someone witnesses an assault and doesn’t say or do anything about it, they condone that behavior; they are a part of the problem. I get it. If you step in – especially if the situation could turn violent – you could also get hurt… but do SOMETHING! Call the authorities or something. Raise your voice and yell at them from a distance and maybe it’ll get the attention of someone who does feel comfortable stepping in. But if you do nothing? Then you’re a part of the problem. There’s been a couple of times I’ve been on the bus where I sensed there might be a problem – I always have my headphones in listening to an audio book or music, but I turn down the music to make sure nothing inappropriate is being said or done. Thankfully, I’ve never had to step in – but I am always ready.
This morning (that I’m writing this) I witnessed something heartbreaking that I couldn’t ignore. As I was coming into work, about to come into the building I work in, there was some junk discarded on the upper landing. I realized it wasn’t junk, but a couple people trying to sleep on some venting. Even though this venting is out in the open, it blows warmer air from underground. The thing is, it was -31 with wind chill this morning. Here I was, complaining just 30 minutes ago having to wait 10 minutes for the bus, in a shelter blocking the wind and in several layers and relatively comfortable. I acted on an impulse that I’ve never acted on; I went and bought them coffee and a breakfast sandwich from McD’s. I never have change on me, so I have never given money to people – but I’d rather buy them a meal, anyhow. As I went back to them with the warm meal, I set it down between them – someone walking past me gave me a smile that reaffirmed that I was doing the right thing. Initially I was going to let them sleep, but decided to wake one of them to let him know it was there – so they could eat and drink a warm meal.
Some people may argue that I’M part of the problem – that giving them food “encourages” them to stay on the streets. I disagree. Often there are underlying issues going on – mental health issues, drug or alcohol abuse, people simply down on their luck. They are shooed out of public spaces because people don’t like seeing them; their an eye-sore and a nuisance. Just because they’re on the street doesn’t mean they should treated like garbage. They are still human beings and they deserve some dignity! Buying them a coffee or a meal in -31 WWC weather shows that someone cares about their strife. That glimmer of hope might give them the will and desire to actually seek help. Treating them like shit will make them believe that they don’t deserve anything better – not even the basic human needs!
I admit, street people used to piss me off – especially in Victoria. However, in Victoria, with its balmy year-round weather (most of the time!) being on the street was more like a choice than a “requirement”. And I know there’s now problems on Vancouver Island with “tent cities” in a lot of the major hubs like Nanaimo and Victoria. But here in Ottawa, it really bothers me. Probably because of the weather extremes and the age of the people on the streets. A lot of the people begging for money are older – like 60’s and older! One woman looked like she could be my grandmother! It was heartbreaking! When I commented about this to by boss, she said that it’s because cost of living is so high and pensions are so low, there’s often no options for them in order to pay for things like groceries! Her own mother lived with her and she “rented” out a basement suite to her for a minimal fee (otherwise her financial assistance would have been cut off!) and it also helped her as she was a built-in babysitter when needed! If her mother didn’t have that assistance, she’d be in the same boat as the ones I see on the street.
One thing I recognized was that I can’t do this – buying food – every morning. Cost of living IS high here and even though both my husband and I are working, we simply don’t have the means… but I DO have the time. When I got into work that morning, I google searched outreach programs and found Ottawa Mission which aligns with what I want to do and is somewhat close to where I work so it’s more or less convenient. I filled out the volunteer application and have been in contact with them about volunteering over the holidays until I can get to an orientation meeting.
If you don’t like something, you have a responsibility to do what you can in order to change it – no matter how small and insignificant it might be. Yes, some people go above and beyond to try to make change, but just because you can’t do something “big”, doesn’t mean you can’t do something small!
Look at Greta Thunberg. She wanted to make change, so she’s making it her mission to inspire the youth – our future generations – and everyone else – to make changes NOW to improve the health of our earth. You may not agree with her tactics – because, sure, talking doesn’t make change… but if she can change the minds of the people, and more people demand change, then politicians NEED to listen! Some teens create something to help improve the environment, but just because Greta isn’t inventing something, it doesn’t diminish her efforts.
Because in order to change the world, you have to – HAVE TO – change yourself first! And that’s the hardest thing to change.
So whether it’s changing your opinion of homeless people, what you can do to help change the state of the environment, or stepping in when something wrong is being done, everyone has to do their part to have a healthy mind, home, city, country, global community.
If not… we’re all fucked.