Paul Jacob

It's tempting, I know. At least I'm tempted. I see the headline, and my first instinct is to shout, "It's come to this!" Or perhaps make a subtler point: "The poor will always be with us . . . and the state will always work against those who help them."

The headline? "Activist arrested while feeding homeless in downtown Orlando."

My instincts would have me side with those who aim to help the poor. Even the lefty-sounding name of the group, "Food Not Bombs," doesn't offend me. Hey, I feel a bit threatened by bombs. I don't feel threatened by food. So, on the face of it, hats off to Eric Montanez, age 21, who aims to feed the homeless.

But instincts are not enough. Montanez was arrested — not for feeding the poor as such, but for feeding the poor in a public park.

Public parks are for the "public," but not for certain members of the public to turn into homes. Houses are for homes. Parks are . . .

Well, parks could be said to be for the "homeless," these days. That's where many homeless people like to sleep. Nice benches. Nice grass. Trees.

But we who own or rent homes — we workers and business owners and professionals and politicians — like to retreat to parks to free ourselves, however briefly, of work and business and house and such duties. Parks are places to "get away." Relax.

It sure is hard to relax or play while hordes of the impoverished go about their mass feedings.

Selfish? We, who have so much, would deny others who have so little.

But, we who have so much have also denied ourselves many of the things the poor and the homeless have not denied themselves:

Inebriation, for instance.

And, well, free time.

A homeless person can wander about to no set schedule. A person who works finds himself or herself at the beck and call of customers, colleagues, clients, bosses, what-have-you. To gain wealth (or just a mere taste of it), we give up some attitudes. We spend time on personal grooming. We clean ourselves up, make ourselves presentable (clean T-shirt and shorts identify the level to which I aspire; I often must wear a suit and tie, though). We give up a lot . . . to gain a lot.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.