Street Tales: The growing violence in society

At Potters Hands Kitchen we have three teams that produce the meals we serve, plus a different group that comes in some Sunday evenings. All three Potters Hands groups are unique in their style of cooking and also in their attitude towards our clients.

We have been very fortunate that violence in the kitchen is minimal, but having said that, it is increasing. Most often the actual physical fights are restricted to outside; they usually do not bring their disputes inside the dining room. When they do, we jump into the fray immediately and stop whatever might develop, so the large majority of these incidents amount to little more than shouting matches.

Add to that, we are quick to call the RCMP, simply to help stop any potential for serious injury or worse. Usually they respond fairly quickly, but there are times when they are not available for various reasons, although these physical altercations often don’t last long enough for the police to apprehend anyone.

I always thought that this violence was unique to the street crowd, but I recall speaking to some of our seniors that had to use soup kitchens set up before and during the Second World War. They also had many disagreements; some that often led to fisticuffs, occasionally worse. They were not always afflicted with addictions, they were just out of work and hungry.

So what is it that causes people to become so enraged that they want only to strike out? I have mentioned before that a loss of control of one’s life can produce anger, but I feel even though it is a large factor, there is much more involved than that.

As I watch the news about the 150 black female entrepreneurs who are meeting together to celebrate who they are in Canada’s 150th birth year, one of the underlying sentiments they expressed was how they had always felt minimized and not well promoted before. According to one interviewee, she was learning through this process the group was using, that she was learning to become comfortable in her own skin.

Prior to this learning process, they were met with one frustration after another, simply because they did not feel that they were a true part of society and or worthy to be one.

The issue of a person’s worth within a society is based on many factors. Self-worth is probably the greatest detriment to feeling a part of a community, and when the lack thereof is demonstrated in a person’s life, they feel that every other person looks at them the same way. This in all likelihood can lead to a great deal of frustration, which then can lead to anger. This anger is usually manifested against the very ones that we feel minimized by.

The commercial world through its advertising, I believe, is largely responsible for attacking an individual’s self-worth. By presenting a picture of supposed perfection, (enhanced by their product), especially to young people, all they have achieved is the breaking down of a person’s acceptance in society. The result is a lot of unhappy people who by the same media learn to distrust and fight each other; hence the increase in the violence we witness.

In the faith that almost all soup kitchens adopt, their God gave two great commandments for us to live by; the second of which says that we are to love others as we love ourselves. I think that includes respecting and building each other up. Just imagine with me for a moment; if we all really lived the way he instructed us to live, (and we all struggle to do so).

Would we then still have individual, corporate and universal anger and hatred? My guess is that no, we would not, at least, not nearly as much.

Chris Salomons is kitchen co-ordinator for Potter’s Hands ministry in Red Deer.


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