As a country we have worked hard to confront many of the challenges faced by others, but one which remains largely taboo is homelessness. Much like mental illness (which, coincidentally, is not terribly uncommon among the homeless population), everyone acknowledges that homelessness is a problem, but it has not yet reached the level of being a sexy topic which people don shirts or ribbons for.
Along with the loss of a home, many homeless people also lose their dignity. Sleeping out in the elements is not how most people envision their life. Not showering for days (or weeks) on end does not inspire self esteem. Having to scour for food is enough to beat down even the most proud of people.
One restaurant here in Baltimore is taking one small step to try and change that. Every July, Baltimore Restaurant Week takes place. Instead of participating in this annual tradition, Tabrizi’s is taking its show on the road to local homeless shelters. They will be serving “elegant” meals to Baltimore’s homeless. No, this won’t save anyone from homelessness, but perhaps giving someone just a few minutes of dignity, a few minutes to relax, by giving them a good meal like they’d receive at a restaurant just might help brighten their day, will make it easier for them to make their next decision or remind them that they are a worthy human being.
I’ve heard of “soup kitchen cafes” in the past, where soup kitchens or other similar providers serve their visitors at the table and provide them with metal flatware and real plates and bowls, and I think the idea is brilliant. Some of these places even hire homeless or disadvantaged people, giving them the opportunity to contribute and feel better about themselves, all while earning a paycheck. Bringing some sense of normalcy to the lives of those who have been displaced, showing them just a few moments of dignity, really can turn around someone’s mindset – and ultimately, maybe even their life.
This is why I run for Back on My Feet. No, they’re not going to solve the homeless crisis this country faces overnight, but they’re doing what they can to change one person’s life at a time. Dignity has no price, but a lack of dignity can be costly. Treating someone with dignity costs you nothing, but it can make the world of difference.