As I spent the $138 to replace my car window this morning, I thought about how lucky I was to be getting this education about those less fortunate than myself. Some might say that I was the victim. Far from it. The individual who smashed my window is clearly the victim here: the victim of a society which refuses to accept and embrace his alternative lifestyle.

I think it’s very important that — rather than placing blame on people who make a valid lifestyle choice and become thieves and substance abusers — we try to understand the reasons that they’ve chosen to live this way.

After all, it’s our fault that they made these choices, and our fault that we can’t accept them. By flaunting our jobs and the meager paychecks they bring, by our stubborn desire to live within the law and the rules of society, we make those who do not accept these rules uncomfortable, sometimes to the point where they just naturally lash out. Their self-esteem is at stake, dammit, and we need to understand what they’re feeling when they raid the broken-down cars and homes we’ve had the audacity to pay for through our labors.

Homelessness, poverty, and addiction are not crimes, after all. Therefore, can it really be considered a crime when some homeless, poor, or addicted individuals behave in a fashion which endangers the health, safety, and property of other people? Of course not. To suggest that such behavior is criminal would be to suggest that these individuals must take responsibility for their own actions. That wouldn’t be very tolerant, would it?

The fact that most poverty victims do not choose crime or violence as a lifestyle is immaterial. It is our responsibility as sensitive and caring San Franciscans (and as citizens of Mother Earth) to support all diverse lifestyle choices, even those which our misguided belief systems may suggest are incompatible with the rights of others. Who are we to make value judgments about those who feel the need to take what is ours?

Remember that tolerance is not just about accepting the rights of others to live as they see fit. It’s about supporting them in every aspect of their choice and making sure that there are no repercussions whatsoever for the individual making the choice. Any repercussions for adjacent individuals, of course, are irrelevant, as attention to these might stifle the freedom and creativity of those choosing alternative paths.

Think about it:

  • The next time you’re mugged, consider giving just a little more than the mugger asks for. Offer him dinner, perhaps, or try to find him a place to stay for the night. Like most privileged individuals, you have a spare bedroom, don’t you?
  • If you step in excrement on the sidewalk, take a minute to think about the differently-housed individual whose principles wouldn’t allow him to check into a shelter which wouldn’t accept his dog as a resident. Alternative co-housing communities are not the answer for everyone, and again, you have a spare bedroom, don’t you?
  • When a car pulls up next to you (or parks in front of your house) with music playing at ear-splitting volume, understand that the youngster inside is merely expressing himself a manner he feels comfortable with. Respect it. Similarly, when children are running around the supermarket screaming and banging into you, it’s because their parents also want them to know the beauty of self-expression.
  • Lastly, when confronted with the possibility of physical harm, always assure the attacker that you understand and accept his lifestyle choice. He’ll eventually respect and admire you for it, although he may not demonstrate this immediately.

People make choices. The fact that you may have chosen to work for a living and make something of your life doesn’t make you superior to someone who’s chosen an alternative path. Just different. Understand this difference and help it thrive. There’s no right or wrong here. This is San Francisco.

I know I feel a lot better having spent my money learning another valuable lesson about the community of man. To think, I might have frittered away that $138 on food or clothing for myself.

Instead, I bought glass. In that glass, I found a miraculous reflection.