Chance encounters sometimes lead one to think about things that might rarely bubble to the surface of consciousness were it not for prompting by that meeting. Yesterday was one such occasion.
While attending a Garvan Gardens workshop entitled Cooking with Fresh Herbs: Mardi Gras Edition, we sat at a table with a guy whose name tag read “Greg.” He spoke of his involvement with United Way of Garland County and, through that engagement, his support of the Ouachita Children’s Center. He then mentioned the number of homeless people in and around Hot Springs and the number of children who are homeless, because either their parents are in the justice system or simply cannot afford housing. Though his comments constituted only a fraction of the conversation around the table, they are the ones that came to mind this morning as I recalled yesterday’s truly enjoyable session.
As we sat eating a salad enhanced by the balsamic vinegar dressing we had watched being made a bit earlier, a dressing infused with wonderful fresh herbs, Greg mentioned the number, I think he said thirty-one, of students in Mountain Pine schools who are homeless. Either they move from place to place seeking temporary shelter or they live in tents because that’s the best their parents can do for them.
Later, as we enjoyed the gumbo and bread we had watched the workshop leader prepare as he explained the ingredients he was using and their role in the flavor and texture of the dish, Greg said homelessness in Garland County is a growing problem like it is in so many other places.
It seems to me that, with the resources we as a society collectively enjoy, it’s utterly absurd for children to be homeless. While I fully recognize that some adult homeless choose to live in that way, due to psychological issues I don’t pretend to fully understand, I find it hard to accept that we allow children to struggle in that way. I have never had children and don’t plan to start now, so I cannot say what might be involved in bringing those children in from the cold. I am wholly unprepared to host a child in my home. But isn’t there something I might do, sharing my limited fixed resources, to contribute in some small way to addressing the problem? It may not be my responsibility; but then, again, perhaps it is. Perhaps the responsibility falls to all of us to do something.
It’s an issue that merits more than a little thought and more than a little compassion, I think.