As I was walking down the streets of Downtown Boston, I see a family walking in front of me. It was a older women who I would guess was the mother, an older man- obviously the father and a teenage girl. The family walks by a homeless person and the teenage girl puts her hand in her back pocket and pulls out what seemed to be a dollar bill, walks towards the homeless man and puts the money inside the cup that was in front of the homeless person. Her mother was furious with such act of "stupidity" as she puts it. She tells her that he will probably just buy drugs, or liquor, "how do you think he became homeless?"
I am sure there are people out there who agree with what this woman said, this man has made bad choices in life and therefore he is now suffering, "karma's... not friendly". As I am sure there are people out there who see things differently, the question remaining is which is right?
"You can't get credit, and you can't receive blame unless you act freely", this is a quote by J.D Trout; author of "Why Empathy Matters". In this particular sentence, he is talking about free will. He suggests that free will is an illusion. First time I heard this, I had the same thought you probably have at this moment; "what the hell is that suppose to mean?". This does not mean that everything you do is being controlled by some outside force, wait; it actually does, quite literally but not the way you're thinking. This outside force that has immense control over your free will is your environment; meaning that your environment shapes every decision you make, or what you believe in. Example of this was a study that showed if people vote in schools they rated schools as something they find it exceptionally important to improve. This is just one example of many studies.
So, what does free will have to do with the homeless? Well, because of free will we say this homeless person has made very bad decisions throughout his life, that he is lazy, and not disciplined, did not take advantages of all the resources he had. Well, that is called the Fundamental Attribution Error, which is the simple mistake that we all make when we draw inferences about a person's characteristic's/ personal trait when in reality it is situational. The truth is that a lot of these homeless people you encounter in the streets never had enough resources to help them get into a better position in life, their environment was probably one of the worst you can imagine. They may never had someone to support them through tough times, maybe they became extremely sick and wasted all resources they had to survive, maybe their environment was not friendly therefore having to act a certain way to survive, maybe the environment was so toxic he had to leave everything behind. All these are possibilities and there are even more possibilities.
In the end, when we see a homeless person, or anyone in need we have the decision to help or not help because unlike them, we had enough resources in your life to help us get where we are. They are not asking for all our resources, only our dollar.