Groceries in Living Rooms, 2017, stoneware
A single mother was loading groceries into her car, trying to manage her child in the process. A store employee approached to help, but she blocked him from getting near the trunk of her car. At that moment, the child started out across the parking lot. Instinctively, the mother went after him. Wanting to be helpful, the store employee begin picking up bags. Looking into the trunk, he realized he was loading groceries into a living room. This young family was living in their car. He now new, and she knew that he knew. Their eyes met, not a word was said, and the mother drove away.
Homelessness is not who you think, nor is it what you think, and being confronted with the truth can be unsettling. The store employee in the story was actually a local leader who works with the homeless community. But in the moment, this man did not know what to do. He did not know what to say. Here was someone who knows how to approach these situations, and yet he did not know how to react.
This is one of the most human stories I've come across during this project. We have all been there. In fact, when it comes to extreme poverty and homelessness, many of us live in the state of mixed emotions. How do I approach this person? Do I say anything? What can I do? To console our confusion, we point fingers. We blame their situation on their own irresponsible decisions under this false notion of America as a democratic meritocracy. Blaming others is what we do best as a society.
For those of us lucky enough to live comfortably, with shelter and savings, our choices will either perpetuate this situation or work to solve it. For the store employee, his moment of stumbling led to the restructure of how his organization serves the community. When will we be inspired to take action? When will we get tired of loading groceries into the back of people's living rooms?