Commentary: Taking Care of Our Own

Thoughts and Opinions…from Our Readers

By Chris Staniszewski

In the United States, one of our greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses is our need for independence. We often seek it at the expense of those dearest to us and may, when we are most needy, use it to keep us from those most willing to help---our family and closest friends. Because of this obsession with independence, those of us who have found ourselves homeless may not seek family or friends as a temporary solution to our problems. It is an absolutely unexplainable, illogical phenomenon. But there it is.

 It is presumptuous and foolish to say that living with family again, after many years away, is idyllic and heavenly. More likely, it is or can be tinged and tainted with argument and frustration on all sides. Family may expect the younger brother or older sister or the child they used to know, not recognizing nor wanting the person we are now. And because it is their house, it is we who must adapt to their schedules and lifestyle, and thus the tensions multiply. Yet, after all the fights, family, amazingly, is still there and still willing to help.

In many of the world’s cultures, living with extended family units is the acceptable and, in fact, only lifestyle. This brings tremendous obligation to all members, tremendous order and tremendous responsibility---all things that our culture lacks. As the family unit in this country continues to break down, a return to some dependence on family may help build it up again. To humble ourselves and accept our family’s offered support may teach us how important these attachments can be.

Independence is as necessary as air for many of us. This need is good. But we should not push it to a ridiculous extreme. Asking for help when we need it does not make us weak or foolish but logical and practical. No one stands alone, really. Looking to family again, temporarily, may help us stand stronger, taller, and more confident, as family can show us our value by taking us in. A disguised blessing, perhaps.

Published by the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio May 1994 Issue 6