For anyone who questions the inherent goodness at the core of the human spirit, the story of Faron Hall should quiet their doubts. This man, without a home, without a family, without a sense of belonging, has saved the lives of two people who would otherwise have drowned. This courageous man, however, is now in the hospital, recovering from an assault in which one friend remarked that “he [was] beaten beyond recognition.” Despite his courage and willingness to sacrifice, Faron Hall has been assaulted twice since he achieved local and national fame. Hall said that people who recognized him from television attacked him on Christmas Eve. This is the latest chapter in the story of Faron Hall.
This story encapsulates both the negative and positive aspects of the human spirit. In his life-saving actions, and instinctual love for others, Mr. Hall demonstrates the unspoken connection between us all that underlies some of the most beautiful moments of human existence. However, as those who assaulted Faron Hall have demonstrated, there is another side to the human story — a side that treads the path of darkness, sadness and pain. Some of the very same factors that brought Faron Hall up from the abyss have also contributed to his present struggles. Mr. Hall was not prepared for fame, or trained to deal with the media. And sadly, in the environment in which he lives, many people now see him as a target. In essence, Mr. Hall is suffering for the good deeds he committed.
Where does Faron Hall find the strength to save others when he seems unable to save himself? There are two human beings alive and breathing today, who would not be a part of our world, were it not for Faron Hall.
At this moment, I believe it is important to remember that each of us could have been in Faron Hall’s position. It’s easy to walk past the homeless and to tell ourselves that they simply need to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” But we can’t know what has led that person to become homeless. We don’t know what terrible pain gnaws at their spirit and saps their soul. But they are still people with dignity and worth, and they are still alive. Something keeps them going every day, something tells them not to completely give up. And in Faron Hall’s case, something told him to be a hero. Society may give us labels, but it is the choices we make that define who we become, and Faron Hall has twice chosen to be a man who puts the lives of others ahead of his own.
As we look beyond the actions of Faron Hall towards the broader issue of poverty and homelessness, it can be tempting to search for simple and quick solutions. I feel however, that the search for a quick-fix will come up short. That does not mean we should give up in the fight against poverty and homelessness; indeed, now more then ever we need to do more to fight poverty. But we must also remember that our world is complicated, and messy, beautiful, and ugly. We, the human race, are heroic and cowardly, strong and weak. We are all contradictions even in the space of our own lives. Each of us has a measure of positive and negative energy within us. No one is entirely good or entirely evil, and this makes the issue of ending poverty one that is fraught with complication and nuance.
We can have all the programs in the world, but we must remember that Faron Hall was given media attention, an apartment and for the first time people listened to his story. Currently, he still finds himself in a dark corner of our city, surrounded by troubled people. Worse yet, he is facing eviction from his apartment and has been assaulted twice. I believe that this is partly because we have shown that we care for him as “The Homeless Hero,” but he may rightfully wonder whether we care for him as a human being. Fame and adoration and public acclaim can be good for a time, but it takes a sustained commitment to rescue someone from years of despair. In our sound-bite media culture, and our “gotta have it now” ethos, are we capable of making that long term commitment?
For me, the most tragic aspect of this story is that Faron Hall seems unable to save himself. It is painful to acknowledge that a man who clearly has such a caring and loving heart may be unable to find a place in this world. This is a lesson for all of us. Money and fame cannot replace love and compassion. Our world is not fair, and bad things happen to good people, and our continued awareness of this leaves us with one question: who will rescue the rescuer?
Spencer Fernando is a University of Manitoba student, and a believer in the goodness of the human spirit, even when it is hard to find.