The Row Boat

Every person’s life is like a row boat.   To get anywhere in life, each person has to grab the oars and get to work rowing.  The ability and strength of each individual to row their own boat determines the general direction and  outcome of their life, barring any unfortunate circumstance that may arise.

But unfortunate circumstances do arise from time to time, and sometimes these circumstances can injure and maim the rower, or damage the boat.   And that leads us to the circumstance of your average homeless person.    In the condition the homeless person finds him or her self, the best they can do is to only pull on one oar at a time.   And you know, if you only pull on one oar, your row boat (your life) only goes in circles and never gets anywhere.

But, if someone where to get into the row boat,  that is, to get into the life of the homeless person, then that someone can pull on the other oar so that together they can get the boat moving in the right direction again, perhaps even row to a dock so repairs can be made to the boat, and the homeless person can heal from what ails him/her and rest up, and eventually get back to rowing his or her own boat.

Yes, it does happen that sometimes a person gets into the boat and starts rowing, but the homeless person doesn’t row, doesn’t make any effort on his or her own behalf.   That can happen for several reasons.  Sometimes the homeless person is really in no condition to row, and it does become necessary for the other person to row the whole boat on behalf of the homeless person, but sometimes the homeless person is angry and spiteful, sometimes even self destructive, and they refuse to row, and won’t allow anyone else to row for him either.   Still, these issues off anger and spitefulness can be cured, and really must be addressed.

The “big” problem is that there are very few people willing to get into the boats of homeless people.   If anything, they keep their distance, and perhaps they attempt to instruct the homeless person on how to get back to shore, from the safety of their own boat.   Still, none of that will be of any benefit to the homeless person, as their is still no one to pull on the other oar.

Oddly enough, you will find some people in  the row boat with the homeless person, working away feverishly on behalf of the homeless person, such as the people who work at homeless shelters.   But for all the work they do, they never lay a hand on the other oar.   All the work they do, providing beds, and meals, is akin to sitting at the bottom of the boat, bailing out the water that’s seeping in through the cracks and holes in the battered boat.   This keeps the boat from sinking, but still does nothing to get the boat moving forward, and the boat remains dead in the water.

To truly help a homeless person, you have to get in the boat with him/her.  And you have to pull on the oar, and keep the homeless person motivated and focused on pulling the other oar.  And once you get that boat to the dock, repairs must be made to the boat, and the homeless person must be allowed time heal and to rest up so that in time he/she can continue on their journey through life.


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless

One comment

  1. Interesting analogy. Sometimes we pass by these people but we don't know there story. We think they are just lazy and don't want to work. Makes me think about the individuals circumstance and how best to help them. The analogy of the row boat is very effective


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