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The Parthenon

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Column: Homeless mocking reveals privilege

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Every weekend, I work as a barista at a local coffee shop downtown. I love this job dearly, where I get to make coffee and meet incredible people. Some customers can spend $6 on a latte. Meanwhile, others dip into our suspended fund. This suspended program consists of cash donations from members of the community to help the homeless or others who can’t afford a simple $2 cup of coffee.

One man I’ve come to know works “handyman jobs” while living on the street. I look forward to the pride on his face when some weeks he walks in and says, “guess who can pay for their coffee today!” Pure joy. I dread when he quietly says “a cup from the suspended fund please” and still tips me, of all people, the few cents in his pocket.

Friday, while scrolling through my social media, I saw that the Marshall Alpha Xi Delta sorority had a “Huntington Homeless” themed party. My heart sank. Girls dressed in American Eagle flannels and ripped skinny jeans with cardboard signs mocking people who aren’t as privileged to pay a fund to be a part of an organization. Mocking people who would give anything to have that extra cash lying around to buy even a simple cup of coffee.

I can just hear the wretched & tired arguments: “Homeless people need to work harder,” and “they’re all drug addicts.” My friend who works hard to buy his coffee does not deserve to be labeled. His financial state is not a reason for you to get Instagram likes. His life is precious and deserving of love and hope. The smile on his face when he hands over those $2 in change is incredibly bright. He feels normal and a part of something.

Some people can work hard their entire lives and not rise in social class. Life doesn’t favor everyone; if it did, we would all be rich. But how can anyone make progress if they’re constantly being told that they aren’t worth it?

I’m sure you work hard to pay for your membership; I’m not discrediting that. I’m discrediting the fact that you have the audacity to think that your lives are worth more than someone else’s. I’m sure all of those hours of required volunteering for a charity don’t reflect that. But I do think it’s time to grow up and open our eyes to the fact that privilege is real.

I hope that in your future you do not experience what the homeless do every day, because my dear friend at the coffee shop wouldn’t wish his life on any of you, no matter how mean you are. Keep your sisterhood, but be kind. There is a world of people who matter outside of it.

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5 Comments

5 Responses to “Column: Homeless mocking reveals privilege”

  1. Debbie Mullins on December 4th, 2017 12:15 pm

    What an amazing article!
    God formed and created every single person in the same form,do homeless people wish to be homeless,? OF COURSE NOT! THEY HAVE THE VERY SAME DREAMS AND EXPECTATIONS FOR THEIR LIVES AS WE DO! They love, feel and hurt exactly like we do except they probably have a much deeper sense of appreciation! We are putting up our trees and buying our gifts when they are just planning ahead for the many cold and hungry nights and days ahead! God please bless each and every sweet soul out there, help us to do our part instead of mocking and looking down on them because it could just as easy be us!

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  2. Brittany on December 4th, 2017 2:51 pm

    I am so glad you brought attention to what happened. Because I am appalled. They are PEOPLE and deserve to be treated as such. I work at the local day shelter downtown and work with the homeless in Huntington. Homelessness is more than just baggy clothes and a piece of cardboard. It’s worrying about where your next meal is coming from or not eating at all for days at a time. It’s sleeping on the riverbank because you don’t have a place to call “home”. It’s having to rely on other people to do what you can to survive. I’d love to see each of them come down and volunteer at the shelter for just a moment either by serving a meal to them or helping them with job applications and actually talk to the people that they are mocking. Because homelessness is not funny, or a costume or a joke. It’s real and scary and leaves people vulnerable in many ways.

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  3. Natalie Gwinn on December 5th, 2017 3:30 pm

    I wish that due to their actions, the ones involved would now be required to volunteer at a shelter or organization that helps the disadvantaged…sad that those involved need to even be “taught” to be kind and compassionate to those less fortunate!!

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  4. Jill on December 5th, 2017 7:46 pm

    You know, this sort of attitude from this sorority does NOT surprise me. My older sister is an alumni from this sorority, and I am a recovering alcoholic, sober 5 years. She has ALWAYS treated me with this better than attitude, and how dare I try to live my life for me, and I should be something I’m not. Now, I’m not homeless, but I have been. She didn’t have ANY kind hearted bone in her body then, and she sure doesn’t now. It really is sad to know that she really treats people like that, and it isn’t nice or fair. I just hope her son doesn’t end up with the disease of alcoholism or addiction. It isn’t a good place to be. Remember, everyone is fighting their own battle, even her, and if we keep that perspective, maybe even I can tolerate her these holidays.

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  5. MP on December 5th, 2017 10:38 pm

    Bravo Lilly, bravo. 👏🏼

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