Why 'distressing disguise?' Insights from the songwriter #1
Updated: Oct 28, 2020
The song, Anonymous Man is a complex one. Let's take a moment to look at the meaning behind the lyrics from the songwriter.
It's always that bleak concrete step or the deserted park bench that is buried in our consciousness- the scene of the homeless man. These places are the ones we know of well but our busy lives push the images to the back of our minds. Then, as we are buying our morning coffee, in that very same moment, someone out there realises that they themselves have just become the statistic. It has 'hit home' that they are now homeless. When we see them on the way to school or work we ask ourselves, "What was it that brought you here in that distressing disguise?"
How can we as a society just accept that this is ok? It really is incredulous that someone could be left to fall through the cracks and fall so far that they end up with no-one, living on the streets, but it happens and it happens often. Saint Teresa of Kolkata spoke about how 'Jesus is in the distressing disguise of the poor.' When Jesus was stripped of his dignity in his dying hours, he didn't ask nor answer the questions: 'Who are you?...why are you here?... and what is truth?,' (the famous questions asked by Pilate.) He just became a witness to love. 'You don't ask questions, you don't tell lies.' It confuses us to see homeless people, to get our heads around it, just like Pilate. Most of us don't want anyone to suffer but feel powerless to help especially if we don't know what to say. The man that this song is about didn't ask many questions, nor did he have any motivation to lie about his story. Our encounters with people like the Anonymous Man teach us how to sit with the uncomfortable, challenge us to love more daringly and prod us to make changes within.
'Broken down on the street loose change at your feet..' Like an old car we are broken and we break down emotionally when we find life's challenges too much to bear. We all know how it feels even if we've never been homeless or to a lesser degree to feel at our wits end, especially having now experienced a pandemic. 'Living and dying with shame you're losing your name.' People who have no-one or nothing become disconnected with community and live alone and sometimes die because of it. They lose their identify and dignity which is essential for humans to live. We do have a human right to health, well being, purpose and belonging. We hear that we are all in this together and we can bring people back from the the brink with a little kindness and time. However when our doubts enter in, we feel powerless. 'It's easy to convict you, God knows you blame yourself..' How many times have you heard someone blame a homeless person by saying they should just get a job or they must have made bad choices. Even if this was somewhat accurate it's still a case of who's willing to throw the first stone. And usually it's actually not their fault! Stuff happens and accumulates because once you don't have a job or a family or a carer dies, things get bad quickly. These attitudes don't really help. Sometimes it's having the strength to meet people where they are at rather than expecting too much too soon. In many ways we can make a huge difference in our own way. With a small gesture, a connection, a smile or a gentle word of encouragement we might experience a glimmer of the community of God on earth. What do think we can do to address homelessness in our city?