A Place to Be: Building Community to End Homelessness with The BLOCK Project
Originally published in the International Living Futures Institute’s Trim Tab, Issue 36, Community & Equity
My foot catches on an uneven bit of sidewalk, and I fly head-first towards the pavement. I hang flailing in the air for what seems like an eternity – then land hard on my hands and elbows and knees. Before I can even brush myself off, strangers appear out of nowhere, sincerely concerned, asking if I am ok, offering help and advice.
Empathy and helping are part of being human
It seems that my fall triggers an empathy instinct, and a helping reflex. I am pretty clumsy, and once a year or so I unintentionally test the empathy and helping reflex of those around me with a spectacular public fall. Every time it’s the same: no sooner do I hit the ground than people appear, offering help and kind words.
I’ve felt this reflexive empathy, too – I think many of us do – it’s part of what makes us human. My stomach lurches when I see someone start to step out into traffic. I feel sad when I see people crying, even if I don’t know them. Strangers smiling and laughing often make me smile.
And seeing people living homeless, in tents lining the freeway, huddled under blankets in a doorway, or just out in the open – this brings up a whole host of feelings…