Monday, May 16, 2011

Everyone has a Story

My husband, who is on the Flip Side bandwagon, handed me a Mitch Albom article called, Homeless Vet Goes Home the Right Way. It was another article about an unwanted homeless man who passed away and had no one to claim his remains. These are the same stories we've become so accustomed to overlooking because we say to ourselves, "There was nothing I could do." or "That is just going to make me feel bad." or "He was probably some dead beat." Whatever it is, we all share similar feelings. It is human nature. We are always being bombarded by stories of violence, negativity and sadness in the news, we have become 
antipatheticAdjective: Showing or feeling a strong aversion.

which is really hindering our ability to have empathy for others. It is a shame. We fail to take the time to hear the whole story, the story that may actually affect our lives in some way. 

This homeless man named John Hannah, did in fact have a story, a family who couldn't find him and a significant history. If it weren't for a funeral director who took his body to his modest funeral home to care for it and try to find his next of kin, he and his past would be discarded alone.  

Using his birth date, four digits from his S.S. number and his final ranking in the Navy, they found his family who had been searching for him for 15 years. He spent 20 years in the Navy and actually had health insurance and a pension. No one is quite sure why he ended up the way he did but they did learn he had lost his wife and he took it very hard. Even more amazing, he actually had a blog for years and followers who knew who he was. Though he was homeless, he went to the library daily to write in his blog. 

There are so many flip sides to this story. Empathy guided the funeral director to go in search of family for this stranger and expected nothing in return. What a sacrifice he made for another human being. He felt for this man and didn't want him to die alone.

Miscommunication or lack of communication or unknown circumstances caused a family to pull apart and lose touch. It is most likely, John thought his family didn't care, when in fact they were looking for him for 15 years and now he will never know that. Sometimes we assume we understand something or someone and don't take the time to really find the truth. Our fears overtake finding the truth. 

Then, there are all of his blog followers who knew him maybe better than anyone. I wonder if they saw him on the street if they would have taken a second look yet he captivated them online. We would have never expected to find that out about man living in a homeless shelter. 

I am not assuming I know what or how any of you would react to this situation or any other situations. I am merely generalizing about what I think are natural feelings and reactions that many people, including myself, have.  I am learning how to change my reactions and interactions with people and situations so I can be a better person, a more empathetic person and a more productive citizen in my community and world. 

Here is another one of my posts about "Walking in Someone Else's Shoes."

"We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty."
Mother Teresa


Eric @ i've Become My Parents said...

I just discovered the blog and am a fan already. I've always believed that controversy most often is the result of lack of understanding of different perspectives. It's not about agreeing with them; it's about understanding where they're coming from.

People often don't realize that understanding someone else's perspective makes it easier to explain your perspective to them in a way they can understand it.

Thanks for the blog!

Amber Housey said...

Thanks for your input Eric. That is exactly right. Feel free to share. If you aren't on
Please join me there too. Great place to share. I want to hear from people, too.