Skid Row Schools Us Again: Identity Edition

It wasn’t until recently that I realized something I had never thought about while working on Skid Row.

In western society, we look to “stuff” to delineate one another. Do you live in an apartment and have no car? You’re ________. Do you live in a big house and have lots of cats and children and golf carts? You’re __________.  Fill in what you will, but usually we see one another at face value.

He’s wearing nice shoes, she has a crappy car. And we place people on a scale usually ruled by how much money he/she has, which directly translates to how much they are “worth” monetarily and intrinsically. At least in America, and at least from my perspective.

Skid Row is this unique place where story rules identity.

“Stuff” has recently been ripped away, or was never had, by most of the individuals there. My friend Michael would tell me (and still tells me) that “you know you’ve arrived when you no longer need to look through the donations bin for clothing…you can save up your change and buy something for yourself.”

So, people told me stories. Everyday, someone would walk into my office and talk to me about who they were or who they are or the things they’ve done or the famous people they’ve met or used to work for. Literally, I rode home on the train and would run into people from Skid Row and they would tell me stories all the way to my next transfer.

Because the stories kept them alive in today’s world.

The stories held their identities because surely (from a western perspective) how could anyone accurately know who they were by looking at them?

Do we do that to everyone, not just those on Skid Row? Do we do this to that girl you sit next to in class? Do we do this to that “annoying” coworker? Do we do this to that person that always parks too close to you with the “crappy” car?

When you see someone, think of their story. Don’t forget the person they really are isn’t reflected by their exterior, but by the lives they live.