I don’t know what has come over me, but I’m looking at life differently than I did three or four years ago. I’m sure that it has something to do with having had experienced homelessness. It’s given me the opportunity to see things from different perspectives.
Prior to having had become homeless myself, I was one of those people who would see a homeless person and something inside of me would nudge me to do something to help. It could be something as simple as giving someone a few dollars or buying them something to eat. I never thought of that as anything out of the ordinary.
After I became homeless, I saw a different side of human nature – the side that can be indifferent to the sufferings of others.
It seems like numerous times that I had been ignored by members of the community. There were times when I had be yelled at and told to, "Get a job, you bum!" There were times when I had folks shout obscenities at me. On at least four occasions I was actually threatened with physical violence by "gangster rap" types. In other instances I had people actually throw things at me from their passing vehicles.
All of those experiences took their toll on my self-esteem. Yet, my homelessness hadn’t been due to drug or alcohol addiction. It wasn’t due to being lazy. Nor was it due to any deliberate action or inaction. My homelessness came about as a result of a physical injury which was the catalyst to a downward spiral that I couldn’t find a way to prevent.
On the other hand, during the time I experienced being homeless, I also had the extreme good fortune to have seen the very best in human nature.
My community is blessed to have many who are kind, caring and compassionate people. They are able to constantly "rise to the occasion" – even when it may inconvenient for them to do so. And on so many occasions, fate or destiny brought these folks across my path.
The majority of them are simply faces in my memory. Smiling faces. Kind faces. Faces of compassion. Although I may never have the opportunity to know their names, they are nonetheless an important part of my life.
Then of course, there are those in my community whose names I do know. They reached out, not only a hand of compassion, but of friendship. They made a point to take time out of their busy lives to get to know me. That I was homeless wasn’t a deterrent. It wasn’t something to be ignored. I wasn’t something to be ignored. To them, I was more than just someone who might be standing on a corner holding a cardboard sign asking for help. I was a person.
Their kindness served to re-humanize me – even in my own eyes.
For a person who has never experienced homelessness, it’s probably difficult to imagine what it feels like to be treated like an outcast by so many; to be shunned and worse – ignored. It isn’t a good feeling to be treated as though you’re a type of disease. It further wounds what little self-respect for yourself that you have left. It certainly doesn’t help your confidence. If anything, those feelings of "self-disrespect" can become so overwhelming that you finally give up altogether on society – and yourself.
If it hadn’t been for those folks in my community who took the time to show me kindness, I don’t know what my life would be right now. As strong willed a person as I am it’s quite conceivable that without their compassion I might have given up all hope and surrendered to despair.
To those whose names I know – those who took the time to get to know me… thank you. I cannot begin to express my undying gratitude
And to the many whose names I’ve never had the chance to know: I hope that one day I have the opportunity to thank you in person. Your acts of kindness helped sustain this small life when the skies were darkest.