Sunday, May 10, 2009
Some Things Don’t Change
If you haven’t yet read Part 2 in Kim Horner’s series in the Dallas Morning News and seen Courtney Perry’s moving photographs about chronic homelessness in Dallas, you’ve missed something vital to understanding the complicated picture of this challenging problem. Kim’s latest piece blends heart and head in the way in which she excels. When I finished reading it, I felt both sad and relieved, because it gives context to what I’ve experienced for years but have not fully understood: the human cost of gaps and inadequate services for our people without homes in Dallas.
As mental health support wanes, many doomed to homelessness
I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Kim a little bit in the past few months, and I’ve found her to be a kind and trustworthy individual who tells it like it is, ‘gets it’ at many levels, and is able to synthesize complicated information successfully: facts, analysis, compassion without sensation. She knows one doesn’t have to engage in hyperbole in reporting on her ‘beat’, because the situation on the streets of Dallas is heartbreaking enough without it.
Another person who ‘got it’ — and frequently expressed ‘it’ in scathing terms — was William Makepeace Thackeray, when he was writing the novel Vanity Fair (1847-48). This literary masterpiece, which has been called by some ‘the greatest novel in English,’ is gaining ground in my affections, alongside Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, as one of my favorite stories of all time. I first read it in high school and didn’t appreciate it — or understand it — at all. Reading it now, I can only absorb a page or two at a sitting because I find it so dense in meaning and altogether pertinent to modern-day society, and to homelessness in particular.
These passages from Vanity Fair speak for themselves:
“‘There must be classes — there must be rich and poor,’ Dives says, smacking his claret… Very true; but think how mysterious and often unaccountable it is — that lottery of life which gives to this man the purple and fine linen, and sends to the other rags for garments and dogs for comforters….
The hidden and awful Wisdom which apportions the destinies of mankind is pleased so to humiliate and cast down the tender, good, and wise; and to set up the selfish, the foolish, or the wicked. Oh, be humble, my brother, in your prosperity! Be gentle with those who are less lucky, if not more deserving. Think, what right have you to be scornful, whose virtue is a deficiency of temptation, whose success may be a chance, whose rank may be an ancestor’s accident, whose prosperity is very likely a satire?”