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Friday, November 17, 2017

Pursuit of Happyness

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An analysis of whether a movie about homelessness or perhaps hope is so wrong.

Will Smith's new movie opened this week, "Pursuit of Happyness." Prior to going, I looked up this movie to read the reviews and one review in particular caught my eye, it said, "dangerously close to being a movie about homelessness."

It was a wonderful movie! The emotions, pain, sense of helplessness, the desire to succeed came through. It had a happy ending. I won't go too much into detail, in case you want to see it, but I felt an amazing connection to this movie.

I saw myself in this character. Having moved out of my home at an early age to make my way in the world, I was not prepared for the world out there. Armed with only a high school diploma and what I thought was skills, I set out. My first job was with an air freight company. I started out earning minimum wage. Before long I had the normal expenses, car, insurance, rent, clothes, and food. Needless to say in no time I was living paycheck to paycheck. With barely enough money to support myself, I learned how quickly you can get in over your head. I had a jar, in it I put my spare change, and any spare change I could find. I picked up change on the street, checked phone coin returns, newspaper vending machines coin returns, any where I could find extra change. I put it in my little jar. Fortunately, the jar held enough change that I could buy, two pounds of pasta, a jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce, a stick of butter, a small jar of parmesan cheese, and a loaf of bread. This jar saved me many times when I found myself with no money for two weeks. It was enough, if I rationed, to last me two weeks.

As my experience grew, so did my earnings. Until I reached the height that only a high school diploma could take you. I was fortunate enough that I did not have too many emergencies. But I did reach a point where I was behind in rent, car payments, and bills. I do remember sleeping outside for a short time, with only a blanket to ward off the cold. It was then that I went to college. I worked three jobs, and went to school full time. I was able to secure an efficiency apartment while I struggled to go to school. One of my classmates lived in a ship container. I used that jar on many occasions to eat. Although the price now was that it could only provide me with pasta, a loaf of bread, and a gallon of milk.

Upon graduating college I was able to successfully build my life to where I had to join a gym to keep myself in shape. With financial security no longer needing that jar. It still sits on my piano, a reminder of just how fragile we are. We are all only one tragic event from being on the streets.

Homelessness is a problem. The current savings rate in America is 0.4%, this shows that people are on a very narrow edge. 67% of the homeless are first time homeless. 48% have been homeless for less than one year. Many cite being homeless because they lost their job, or just couldn't afford the rent anymore. With the average rent in the County of Los Angeles at 1425.00 for a single bedroom and 1645.00 for a two bedroom, it is little wonder how someone earning the current minimum wage could afford a roof over their head let alone the other "necessities" of life.


What can be done? There is no final solution, and I guarantee if you think about it too long, it will immobilize you! However, until we can find a solution, here are a couple of ideas. Donate food and money to the food bank. Volunteer your time to a variety of worthy endeavors. Mentor, tutor, and teach, these people how to handle this world. Many of these homeless do not have the skills, experience, or tools to function in an ever increasing complex world. We cannot allow these people to merely fall by the way.

I still do not have the answer, only a question. What is so wrong about having a movie about homelessness?



About the Writer

John Wolf is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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5 comments on Pursuit of Happyness

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By V on December 19, 2006 at 01:08 am
I forget the percentage exactly, but a very large percentage of homeless people in the USA are actually employed. I'm always incredulous when I hear people talking the tough talk that allows no empathy for homeless people, saying that "They should just get a job and pull themselves together." As you illustrated, many hard working, average people (not necessarily drug addicts or alcoholics)live very, very close to the edge. And it isn't far to go from the edge to the street. Just one catastrophe ... an accident or a divorce can put a person on the street. Some people do not have the good fortune of a family who can support and assist them. Many people have no one. And everyone has a story. If you are strong and healthy of body, mind and spirit, do not want for anything and are so successful in your life, that you cannot even conceive of circumstances that might render you homeless, and can't even conceive of what kind of ill fate brings a person to end up on the street, then give thanks. Give thanks and ask the universe to instill in you some compassion. It is only this characteristic that will drive a solution for poverty and homelessness. PS I'll see this movie eventually for sure, but I CAN'T STAND that they spelled it happYness. It drives me bananas!
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By Steven Lane on December 19, 2006 at 02:44 am
Everyone does have a story. If you have a business at the beach, after awhile, you will get to know most of the "local" homeless. Some, I have known for years and are friends of mine, others are not. Alcohol, drugs, and untreated mental disabilities have taken their toll among the ranks. There are a fair share who prefer that lifestyle, but most just find themselves in a downward spiral that seems impossible to slow. There is basically no "safety net" to fall into. It's my belief that most people don't even want to acknowledge that there's a problem, much less look for a solution. They just wish they would go away. Sad. I've heard good things about the movie, I want to go see it.
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By John Wolf on December 19, 2006 at 08:54 am
I too was bugged by the spelling of Happiness (drove my spellcheck nuts), but all will be revealed when you seen the movie. Hopefully a lot of people will see this movie and be moved to, at the very least, show a little more compassion.
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By TonyBerkman on October 23, 2011 at 05:14 am

I found the movie to be uplifting and one that should be watched be anyone and everyone. Movies like this are more about inspiration and the human spirit, to me, than about anything else. America is filled with great examples of people who came from homelessness to become the greatest leaders in their respective fields and careers.

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By Credo on October 16, 2013 at 05:54 pm

Homelessness has evidently been an ongoing problem, and will continue to plague society until the mind frame of our political and social infrastructure has improved, toward a more caring one. The cure for this problem can not be exacted by simply feeding the poor, or by peddling pennies to the lone homeless scoundrels we happen upon prancing our public domain.

We must ask "why" the politicians sanctioned laws that prevent people from feeding the homeless? Why has society secretly banned various services from the homeless (police protection, medical, jobs, now food)?

Without an address homeless people are not able to secure a job, apply for social services, vote or merely sleep on a park bench. Why?

Until many of these conditions are put to the political fire by concerned citizens, I'm afraid nothing will change...

Another article of great...

:)Credo

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