The People Of Neverwhere
The BBC did a miniseries called “Neverwhere” a number of years ago that was written by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry. It was a very good SciFi series that mainly dealt with a fictional underground world in London. One of the lines one of the characters said had to do with how we really never notice people and how quickly we forget about many of the people that we do see, especially those that are homeless.
As I watched more and more of it, it make me realize how we really don’t notice and ignore those that are homeless. We go about our merry way in our own lives and some will even criticize them saying how they need to get a job, stop living off of the government, that they actually have fancy cars and homes, and how they really need to try harder. For some of the homeless that we do see this is true, but for many they are trying but the truth of the matter is that because they are in truth unseen by most they don’t get the chance to change their situation.
People are critical of the unemployment rate during the term of the current President saying that it is higher than what is reported because people have stopped looking for work, when the truth is that it has always been that way regardless of who that President is. As long as it has been possible, people have tried to live off of the government, in some cases it has been been businesses. Now the businesses that I am referring to are not small ones, but ones making billions of dollars a year in profits. Money like this is going to oil companies and companies that own large and profitable farms among others.
But yet we as a nation are more concerned about a small group of poor people who are ripping the government off and not the big businesses that truly can afford to survive quite well without government help. I learned something the other day that I had not realized, that being when Walmart began to get bigger and bigger, their aim was to hire people who only needed to have a little extra income, mainly housewives who were looking for something to do during the day. FedEx was designed to be for College students to help them have spending money through college. There are many cases like this throughout the country, but things like this have changed because people were not making the money needed to be able to pay for just basic needs to survive.
We often simply ignore people who clearly need our small change in order to even get something to eat. Now I am not saying that we all should be giving our change to all of those who claim to be homeless and need money, but I am sure that you have seen people sleeping at night in a doorway or elsewhere outside. Why not bring that “doggy bag” of food that you didn’t finish and leave it with them? Think about it and the Bible Story of the Fish & Bread. Think about yourself if you were in that position. I have some friends who carry non-perishable items in their cars and when they come across people begging in traffic for money they give them a small bag of the foods. This has helped some of them when they have had car trouble and a person whom they have help have come over and helped them. I helped to start a weekly lunch program that gave bags of food to those in need at a park. I would take some of the bags to other areas where I knew homeless and needy were and would give them to people there. As the people got to know me, they would talk with me and tell me their story. Their were those that were addicts, just gotten out of prison and many others, some of whom would say that when they were in a better position that they would looked down upon those that were homeless.
I had gone over to San Francisco one evening, and had a box that contained some of the left over lunches and did my usual bit of just walking around. Before I knew it, it had become dark so I decided that I would head back home and give the lunches to the people in the area that I knew were homeless. With the ones that were in my neighborhood, I knew that many of them ate on a daily basis, but I would give them one as a knew that it could help them stretch their food for a meal longer. As I walked down Market Street (the major road in San Francisco,) I saw people laying in doorways and beside lampposts sleeping. After passing a few it hit me that I had more lunches in my bag than I really needed, so as I would pass someone, I would drop off a bag. Before I knew it I was down to just two bags. I thought about the people in my neighborhood and knew that their were a couple of people who always had a hard time finding something to eat, so I would save those bags for them. As I continued to walk there were a couple of guys pushing a shopping cart full of their possessions. They seemed to be acting a little crazy, and it appeared that most people were stepping as far as possible away from them, but I didn’t as I could tell that they were harmless and that these were just a couple of guys enjoying life even though they were living in the streets. I asked one of them if they were hungry, and he said that he was, so I gave the two of them the last two bags. As I rode home I felt a little bad, for I didn’t have any for the main two people that I was planning on giving the bags to, but figured that I would stop at a place and get them something to eat when I got into the neighborhood. Much to my surprise, when I got home I found the two of them eating a hardy meal. A few weeks later I had to go into San Francisco for something, and as I walked down Market Street, the two guys I had given the bag to walked up to me and thanked me for being so kind and giving them the food.
I have looked closer into the world that the downtrodden live in, and it is a fascinating world. The barter system us highly used in many ways. Most people think that they are mainly using the money that they are begging for to buy drugs and alcohol (which some do use the money for,) but much of it is used to buy the basics. Items are traded with each other in order to survive. They are living in a world that many humans either do or have lived in.
The people in our Neverwhere world take care of each other in that they make sure that for those who don’t cause trouble or problems within it are taken care of . While being in and around those living in Neverwhere, it makes me wonder what the country would be like if we went and learned from those living there. We have “Experts” in this country who go in and try to “fix” the problems within Neverwhere, but they don’t talk about the things that they have learned from the people in there. The “experts” come in with a preconceived idea on what should be done, but they really aren’t willing to listen to the needs and desires of the people. They aren’t willing to watch and see what really goes on that they can bring to the rest of the country that would truly make things better for all of us.
With the group I was with that was doing the lunches each week, we started in many ways like we had solutions to some of their problems, but once we changed our outlook and began to ask them what they needed, things became great between them and us, in that we became one community. They stopped looking at us as though we were coming to fulfill a need to help the pitiful, but that we looked at them as fellow humans. They would do their best to protect us from the bad events that could and did occur. At first the police would come by and watch. The police would slowly drive by and look. Finally one day I walked up to one of the officers and explained to him who we were and what we were doing. I didn’t realize as I was walking up that this was a commanding officer, and after I explained things to me he said that he wondered, then thanked us for what we were doing and said that he had wondered why problems had stopped there during the time we were there. He must of informed the others, as they stopped coming by and watching.
Some of the people began to turn there life around. Some stopped drinking, doing drugs, committing crimes and would jump up and help us with stuff even though we never asked for it. When kids where there they would make sure that they were the first to be given food, and the same was true with the elderly and physically handicapped. Now think about how often you would see that among those who have wealth.
So the next time that you find yourself looking down upon those in Neverwhere, or simply walk past them only to know that you will forget about them real soon, as yourself what you can learn from them that will make you a better person.