“I Still…” Revisited

Posted: May 22, 2008 in Compassion, Friendship, Homelessness

Today was a good day.

Lately, I’ve had so many different things going on all at once that I often have to force myself to make the time to "stop and smell the roses." Although for someone like me, who has allergies, literally stopping to smell the roses can be somewhat problematic. Still it’s been a good day. And it gave me the opportunity to do some personal reflecting.  

Personal reflection is something which carries with it some weighty responsibilities. If done with a genuine integrity, it forces us to confront our own personal demons; our short comings; and our strengths. It makes us take a closer look at how we live our lives. And, it makes it necessary to honestly examine how we treat those around us.

What makes it easier for me to examine myself is that I’ve kept a personal journal for the better part of my life. So I’m able to read over things I’ve written to myself in the past. And, if I’ve been true to myself, then hopefully there will be some evidence of positive personal growth; evidence of some forward momentum.

So, I decided to take a look at my journal entry for one year ago today.

As I read the words, I could clearly remember the circumstances that were occurring at the time. I could recall the many struggles that I was facing; the hopes; the aspirations; and the expectations I had for myself.

Although I’m not going to divulge the contents of those pages here, I will share this: there has been some growth. Perhaps not as much as I would have liked, but even the smallest amount of personal growth is better than none at all. To be sure, there are still numerous areas in my life that do require a lot of work; shortcomings that I’m not entirely pleased with. But then again, I didn’t actually believe that I would become absolutely perfect in one year’s time. In fact, I’m resolved to the fact that I’ll never be completely error free, but it gives me a goal to work toward nonetheless.

There is an "extension" to my personal journal that I also took some time to read through: this blog.

I looked at the post I’d written a year ago. It was called, I Still…

Again, I was able to recall the events that were unfolding at that time in my life. For example –

A year ago today, the roof over my head wasn’t a solid material. Rather, it was made out of tent nylon. The tent was set up hidden in a small copse of trees in a vacant field less than three city blocks from the local homeless shelter. There was a small creek approximately 5 feet behind the tent. Because of the low level of the ground where that tent was set up, when it rained, the creek would overflow and the water would create a small pond around the tent.

I didn’t like those living arrangements all that much.

For one thing, the tent wasn’t overly large – only 8 feet by 8 feet in size. And it certainly wasn’t tall enough to stand up in. I was a royal pain in the you-know-where getting dressed and undressed. Had to do that lying down. Then of course, was the lack of indoor plumbing – which meant having to find a place to deal with the call of nature, which was not fun if it did happen to be raining.

Another thing about not having indoor plumbing meant not having access to drinking water unless I had taken bottled water back to the tent with me. There are a few times when I’d forgotten about the water then would have to suffer with thirst throughout the night, unless I took a walk to the convenience store and bought water – but buying bottled water takes money, which I didn’t always have.

Although I did have an air mattress so that I didn’t have to sleep directly on the cold ground, I’ve concluded that that air mattress was no where near as comfortable as the bed I now sleep in. It’s nice being able to swing my legs over the edge of the bed each morning and then sit up. I couldn’t do that with that air mattress. Well, actually I could. But since the air mattress was only 5 or 6 inches deep, if I sat up with my feet flat on the ground, it was more like squatting than sitting – and quite uncomfortable after five or ten minutes.

My life today is quite a bit different than it was a year ago today. Yet, as I read through my post of this day last year, I realized that there are some things which haven’t changed. But perhaps that’s a good thing – especially when it comes to my own personal convictions.

However, it’s possible that there has been a change in my personal convictions. So many of the things that I felt so strongly about last year, I find that I feel all the more passionate about them this year.

Maybe the experience of having had been homeless has deepened my convictions. Maybe those convictions would have deepened regardless. And, maybe the experience of homelessness accelerated their deepening.

None of that really matters though. Right now what matters is that it’s been a good day – it’s been a good year.

There have been some obstacles along the way; setbacks that I couldn’t foresee; circumstances that were beyond my control.

And through it all – lean times and good times – there have been those who have enriched my life through their gift of friendship.

They know who they are – and I hope they know how dear they are to me.

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