By Rev. Robert Parrish
What is pride? Sometimes it looks like appreciating the clothes that you have to ware in spite the fact that they are out of style or even torn. Maybe it looks like a basket ball team playing hard even though they are down by thirty points. Pride then, is having respect for yourself or a group of people.
Part of my growing up years were spent in Bryson City, NC, which is located near the Tennessee boarder. My family, and the African American community we were in, were very poor, but, that did not stop the matter of having pride drilled into me. In fact my mother would say “Son, you may not have the best clothes, but at least they are clean”.
This kind of pride spilled over to older relatives who looked after my brothers and I. I recall very vividly, a relative that was referred to as “Uncle Doc”. You see, in the Bryson City adults were often referred to as aunts and uncles as a matter of respect. UncleDoc expected a lot from the people in our community; this was especially so for the kids. One day, while two of my brothers and I were setting outside of a community café, Uncle Doc approached and noticed that our hair was not combed. He asked us why our hair was in such a state. We could not give him a satisfactory answer. He then turned around and left us. However, it was not long before he returned with three combs. As he gave each of us a comb, I remember him saying “You represent me and this community. I don’t ever want to see you with your hair uncombed again”. I never forgot this lesson.
It could be that you are wondering what does this have to do with people who are homeless? Many homeless people grew up in families and communities just like mine. In spite of being homeless they hold on to the pride that was instilled in them. A true illustration of this came to me when one of the staff members at Love Wins named Blu told me about how some homeless people plant flowers outside of their tents. She went on to say how the space in their tents are often kept neat and clean. I would imagine that there are those who would wonder how could such a thing be. What this says to me is that pride shows up wherever you are.
The fact that homeless people indeed take pride in what they have should tell us that they have hope. Perhaps this pride and hope will lead to a house and yard, or even a job. This pride and hope helps homeless people take care of those in their tent communities, and to never give up. I pray for the day the more of society will see this kind of pride and give them what they deserve.