Homeless in America’s Paradise, Waikiki Beach Hawaii

At the end of the day, luxury is only a moment's perception in a world overcome by vanity. 

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by M. J. Joachim

The contrast is hard to deny as scores of busy tourists invade Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii. The welcoming warm climate is a perfect place for homeless people to dwell, sleeping under shady banyan trees, scavenging for food in strategically placed garbage cans and carrying their few possessions in backpacks or broken grocery carts. The poor unwilling to be burdened with even these humble items will usually be overdressed, wearing the few layers of well worn clothing they own, right down to that thick, quilted jacket – the one that keeps them warm at night and overheated during the day.

What do they do but hang with the tourists, sleep on public lawns, congregate at the many picnic tables and benches looking out over the Pacific Ocean? For all intensive purposes, these people seem to be part of the scenery, sites to take in and remember for those enjoying the luxurious vacation Hawaiian residents rarely, if ever, have an opportunity to partake in.

Observation quickly reveals the sad state of becoming numb to the plight of others. Where once we may have been afraid of our fellow homeless human brothers and sisters, or perhaps even had compassion enough to offer them some small token, now too many of us merely walk right past them, undaunted by their difficult appearance, plea for a small bit of empathy or shameful bowed head for what’s become of them. The arrogant, self aggrandizing importance we portray so proudly quickly gives way to the sad eyes with the ability to gaze right through us.

Too well they know what it’s like to think you can conquer the world with a word, coin or over-inflated ego. At the end of the day, luxury is only a moment’s perception in a world overcome by vanity. The plight of homeless on Waikiki Beach reveals man’s ability to tune out and deny that which is uncomfortable. It reveals the subtle destruction of lives unsuspecting – not of the homeless, mind you, but of those who believe they can’t be touched by tragedy and wretchedness.

Tourists walk blindly past them, only engaging with them when they appear to have something to offer. These are the ones clinging to that small bit of hope that keeps them alive, not yet homeless perhaps as they dance and play music on street corners, prostitute themselves to anyone willing to pay for their services and sometimes sell their very souls to survive.

The contrast is stark and overwhelming, not to be seen by anyone fully comfortable with denial. For if we see, it will require action, and if we act, we will most assuredly find ourselves out of our comfort zone. Not so long ago, it may have been ignorance and fear that held us back – not anymore. Now it is the realization that acknowledging the plight of the homeless is only the first step in a long, arduous task of responding to their needs.