Peaks And Valleys

Posted: March 19, 2008 in Compassion, Friendship, Homelessness, Self Esteem

This afternoon I stopped into a Subway Restaurant for lunch. Everything on the menu looked delicious. Because I was hungry I bought two 6 inches subs. One "daily special" and one tuna.

When I sat down at the table to eat, I couldn’t decide which sub to eat first. The daily special looked pretty tasty, but then I happen to like tuna – a lot. In the end I decided to eat the daily special first and the tuna second – saving the "best" for last.

By the time I took my first bite of the tuna sub, I was thinking back to what life had been like just last year at this time.  

I had been living in a tent, in a vacant field for about 9 months. There were many times when I had to go with very little to eat. Constantly trying to figure out ways of staying warm on nights when the temperatures had dropped. Worrying about whether the park rangers or the police would happen by the "camp" and either issue a ticket or make me pack up and move straightaway.

Back then, if I had enough money in my pocket to buy a Subway sandwich dinner and still have a few bucks left over for a cup of hot chocolate the next morning, I was doing well. And, if I still had money left over after the hot chocolate, I was doing really well.

Mornings were always a hard time back then.

I’d wake up around 4:00 AM and hunt around in the dark to find my shoes. Then I’d head out to the park to plug in my laptop and write my post for the day. A couple of hours after that – right around 8:00 AM – I’d pack it into my backpack and head over to meet with my other half at the bus stop.

She and I would catch the bus, transfer to another bus at the downtown transit center and I’d ride with her to the day center where she would shower. I’d stay on the bus when she’d get off and I’d head back downtown to the public library.

When the library would open at 10:00 AM, I’d head up to the second floor to one of the small cubicles where I’d once again, plug in and work on whatever small project I might have.

Around 2:00 PM, I’d leave the library to meet up with my significant other. We’d catch a bus and head out to one of the shopping centers located about a mile and a half from where our "camp" was set up. There we would sit, talk and when possible buy bottles of flavored water and something to eat.

Around 4:30, we’d catch a bus and get off at the stop closest to where we "lived" which was still a good quarter mile walk.

That was life a year ago. Perhaps, I shouldn’t even refer to it as "life." It was barely an existence.

It’s strange how so many things that I do these days bring back to mind memories of what I had to endure as one of this community’s homeless.

Something as simple as putting on a pair of socks this morning caused my memory to stir. They were clean and soft. I can recall how many times I had had to wear a pair of socks several days in a row – a few times for a week or more. Back the, by the time I had the money to get new socks, the old ones were beyond the capacity for being laundered.

There are so many things about those experiences I wish I could forget. Or if I can’t forget them altogether, I hope that, at very least, they begin fading around the edges.

On the other hand, there are things about the experience I desperately want to remember: such as the friendships I was blessed to have made. Also, I don’t want to forget the kindness of strangers who found it in their hearts to show me compassion and mercy.

Life is filled with a series of "peaks and valleys." You can’t have one without the other.

There were times when the valleys seemed like the deepest abyss: dark and brooding, littered with endless bogs.

Yet, at those times, when my spirit was bruised and tired beyond anything I could imagine, it was the "chance" encounter with someone from this community which would lift me back up to the light of day. Somehow, they were able to show the kindness needed to rejuvenate this weary soul.

No. I don’t want to forget. There are definitely things about the experience that I want to remember. I want to treasure them like precious gems. And, if it means that I must continue to remember the valleys so that the peaks will remain a constant reminder of the grace and mercy of others – then it’s a price worth paying.

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