“On Compassion” by Barbara Lazear Ascher and “Homeless” by Anna Quindlen are two essays written about homelessness. Ascher has written from a compassionate perspective. She describes events with homeless individuals, but focuses on the reactions of others towards the homeless. The essay written by Anna Quindlen lends a different perspective on the matter of homelessness. She describes a brief interaction with a woman who appears to be homeless. Despite the woman’s raincoat and bag with the grime shadowing the creases, she produces a series of pictures depicting a house, proclaiming to Quindlen that she is not homeless. At some point in this woman’s life she had a house “she was somebody” (217). On the surface these two essays appear to be talking about homeless people in general. However, when looked at on a deeper level the reader will realize there is much more to these essays than interactions with a homeless man and women.
Ascher writes about a man, clearly homeless, who has approached a women and her baby on a street corner. After the woman at the street corner holds up a dollar bill to the homeless man, Ascher wonders "was it fear or compassion that motivated the gift?" (212). She later describes another event of gift giving with a different homeless man. He enters a French bread shop and stands in the doorway. He is dressed in worn out, stained clothing reeking of stale cigarettes and urine. Moments later the owner comes out from behind the counter and hands the man a bag and a cup. Ascher again wonders “what compels this woman to feed this man? Pity? Care? Compassion?” (212). As a society we would rather not be confronted by the ugliness of the reality some people face every day. "We do not wish to be reminded of the tentative state of our own well-being and sanity" (213) Ascher writes. By avoiding or removing this offender we have rid ourselves of the problem. When homeless people are viewed, the most common reaction to them is...
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