How a 60 Minutes documentary on homelessness completely changed me

Last Sunday I got exceedingly mad at myself, and disturbed, and disappointed with who I have become.

When this emotional turbulence happened, I was watching 60 Minutes. I will go ahead and blame this show for my screwed up Sunday night. The show featured a story about homeless families living out of their cars. The adults shared their experience. But most importantly, the homeless children were interviewed. That was the part that really got to me.

For some reason the adults talking about their lives on the streets (and believe me, it was heartbreaking) did not have a huge impact on me. What got me was their children. Those children, who live their lives in the parent’s cars, eating food from cans because they don’t have a refrigerator, a kitchen or even a table to sit down for dinner, those children, made me ashamed of myself.

The homeless kids (who still attend schools in spite of their living conditions!) spoke about their families, about being together and protecting each other while sleeping at night in cars, on the streets. They talked about what it was like to live their lives in cars. They shared their dreams to have a roof over their head, a real house roof.

I sat in front of the TV, frozen. Suddenly, very clearly, I saw myself as someone who lives her life to make money in order to spend, buy, possess. I used the pathetic excuse of not having access for the first 26 years of my life to all the goods and luxuries that the capitalist world had to offer. I gave myself this excuse so that I could go on my uncontrollable shopping binges and indulge in spending.

Was this endless consumption my only purpose of coming to the United States? Didn’t I have a plan to apply my potential to all the opportunities this country had to offer? Of course, I did!

But, somehow, while applying my potential to the opportunities that came along, I stumbled upon a consumerist path and stayed there, desperately clawing at it, afraid to let it go.

I became a bleak materialistic person who solved her problems with shopping. I had a stressful day at work, I went shopping. I felt vulnerable, I was heading to the mall. I wanted to entertain myself, I drove to a local boutique.

In some unexplainable way, those homeless kids managed to show me what no one else could. That night, in front of the TV, I admitted that

I would not be content anymore by equating my deliberate ignorance of my spending problem with its non-existence.

I don’t think I have my life priorities straight in my head. They are all clouded with visions of shoes and bags.

I am a slave to consumption, my shopping addiction and my spending habits. Can I break out of all of this? I don’t know.

Am I going to try? Hell, yes I am!

27 thoughts on “How a 60 Minutes documentary on homelessness completely changed me”

  1. Good for you! It’s true what they say – that the hardest part is admitting there’s a problem. I had a very similar (and painful) self-realization at the end of October. I started a blog a few weeks ago to chronicle it out because it’s painful. My shopping and spending has led me to not focus on my bills and credit – and now that I may lose my place to live (with a family of 5, no less), and my credit is horrible – I’m not sure what we’e going to do. But I know I’ve got to do SOMETHING.
    So knowing…it’s a great start. And if you need someone to help motivate you along the way, I’m here, trying to do the same thing!

  2. It breaks my heart to see stories like this. I think it’s awesome that you are willing to make a change because of this. So many people would either change the channel or are so calloused that it wouldn’t have any impact on them.

    1. Seeing and listening to those children was not just heart breaking but also very disturbing. Why the state (Florida) in this case is not helping those families. But that’s a whole different discussion.

  3. Great job at taking moment to evaluate yourself. I have taken the time to do this over the last number of years and it has been great for me in the sense that I have been able to make adjustments in my life and in turn have been more successful and happy because of it. I am glad you are now aware of where you can make some changes. Trust me, awareness is the hardest part.

    1. I think the hardest thing for me will be making those changes. I am not a very strong person when it comes to shopping.

  4. Good luck, this is a very good new year resolution. I did miss out on the good things in life for first 28 years of my life. But now instead of becoming a materialistic grabber I decided to give. believe me this gives me more joy than wearing another pair of new jeans

    1. I was thinking about it too. But you know, I need to take one step at a time. First, and foremost, let me curb my consumerism. All the rest to follow. 🙂

  5. This is a very brave post. Well done for looking in the mirror and admitting that you would like to change what you saw. Good luck with recovery – it is not that hard, you know. You just have to work out what you really, really value.

    1. That’s why I said that I think that I don’t have my priorities straight in my head. It something that I am going to work on – setting priorities.

  6. In the past two years since I’ve been married, i have cut back on my consumerism a LOT. and the biggest part is that i don’t miss much of it…it is just STUFF. i live fine without it.

    i’m glad you’re trying to get out of the rut!

  7. I’m find that I am so busy I don’t have time to go to the mall. I have other goals that I’ve working towards and focused on those, I don’t even think about consuming… Good luck with breaking your habit.

    1. Oh, not matter how busy I am I ALWAYS make time to go shopping. It is something that for years I cannot resist. 🙂

  8. What a great zen post. I had a client once from Ethiopia who told me that the reason he could get by on two or three dollars a day back home was because there was no no need for more. It wasn’t until he arrived at the USA that he started to need coffees, nice sweaters and a hot new car.

    Your fight is difficult because the materialistic society is all around us. People think that money buys happiness. Happiness is a state of mind. Money buys flexibility.

    1. Your client nailed it! That is exactly what happened to me. There was no need for me to have expensive leather bags or ten pairs of shoes back home. Hell, I was happy to have one pair! Now, I have tons and don’t even wear them. Pathetic.

    1. You know, I am embarassed to admit that I could have been the one chaning the channel too but those kids just froze me in place and that was all it took.

  9. Great wake up call! Hope you act on it and follow through. My department is collecting gifts for a sponsor family. Single mother of four. They were asked what they wanted for Christmas. Really puts things in perspective as they listed scarf, slippers, and a hair brush.

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