Empty Memories

Posted: December 10, 2007 in Employment, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Self Esteem

Although the some of the radio stations are currently playing Christmas songs 24/7, for some reason I seem to be hearing the same ones over and over again. Some of them are just "variations of a theme". For example –

I’ve heard "Jingle Bell Rock" but I haven’t heard "Jingle Bells." I’ve also heard "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" but again, it was the "rock and roll" version and not the version that I learned when I was a young boy. Many of the songs are remakes by "pop stars" but they don’t seem to have the same flavor as when they were originally recorded. Even "Walking In A Winter Wonderland" doesn’t seem to have the same appeal as it did when I was still a wide eyed small boy. A couple of songs that I haven’t heard on radio yet are: "Deck The Halls" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas." It’s probably just as well.  

For a good number of America’s 3.5 million homeless – whose Christmas is going to be anything but "Merry" – this is the time of year that is filled with bittersweet memories of what used to be co-mingled with the need to survive another day. And despite this being the season of Christmas cheer, it is also the time of year when the most number of people will experience feelings of depression – some to the point of taking their own lives.

Imagine what it is like…

… to see people around you busy with their Christmas shopping, carrying bundles and packages of newly bought gifts, knowing that they have someplace to go when they’re done shopping at the end of the day. Then the realization hits you that the only place you have to look forward to going is a homeless shelter. Worse yet, imagine that when you go home it isn’t even to a homeless shelter. You’ll end up having to sleep under a bridge or some bush, or behind a building in some darkened alleyway, or in a doorway because there isn’t enough room at the shelter for you.

Like almost everyone else, you’re probably ticking off the remain shopping days until Christmas. You’re looking forward to Christmas Day like everyone else but for different reasons. You know that there will be a couple places that will be serving a Christmas meal for the homeless. You also know that it won’t be like the meals that you usually get at the homeless shelter. No. This meal will actually be a tasty meal – or at least you hope it will. Aside from Thanksgiving Day, the Christmas spread will be the best meal you’ll get for the next year or so.

Other than that though, there’s not much you’ll have to look forward to: except the spring, when hopefully the weather will begin getting warmer again – that way you won’t be cold as you walk around town with no where in particular to be or to go.

You might have been looking forward to getting one the many "holiday" jobs that pop up all over the place during this time of year. But so were many of the other homeless. Unfortunately, before you were able to land one of them, all the "positions" were filled. Looks you’re going to be broke this Christmas. Yeah, sure you keep hearing how things are rough everywhere, but that type of talk is usually coming from some "fat cat" analyst who is making a six figure plus salary. What does he know about having it rough. You even hear many people in your own community talking about how things are getting rough for them and how their struggling day by day – but, unlike you, they have a place to live.

The other day, when you asked that one gentleman if he had some change he could spare, he looked you straight in the eye and said: "Sorry. Things are rough everywhere. I’m barely getting by myself" – then he jumped into his Lexus SUV and drove away.

There’s a pay phone over on that corner, and you have enough change to make a telephone call – but who would you call? The majority of people you used to know don’t really want to have much to do with you now because you’re homeless. They’re ashamed to have anyone else find out that they "knew you once." Even some of your family have distanced themselves from you. You’ve become an embarrassment to them.

From somewhere deep in the recesses of your mind, a Christmas song begins surfacing. How did it go? "It’s the most wonderful time of the year…" That’s the one. You recall whistling that tune to the radio at one time in your life. Now – you’re wondering what they even bother playing such nonsense on the radio.

This is the time of year when people go into debt and businesses make a killing. And you – you’re left out in the cold with your empty memories.

Yes sir… this is one wonderful time of the year, isn’t it?

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