For the past few weeks I have been getting to know the local homeless people in the city I live. It all started with me meeting a woman named Liz who can usually be found sat out the front of one of the large department stores playing her guitar, singing popular covers. Whilst I had seen her there so many times before, and heard her sing, this time was different! As I walked past her on a Friday night about 3 weeks ago, she started to sing and I literally stopped, entranced, hypnotised by the sound of her voice and the depth to it. It was about 1am and I found myself unable to continue on my way home so I sat there with her, talking, listening for about 4 hours. Whilst I was sat there with her I met a few other homeless people and have since met more.
Whenever I can I will sit with them and talk to them. Sadly a lot of them have been through a great deal of pain and have turned to constant drug use or alcohol as an escape from past events. Something else that I have discovered by being with them is that they all look out for each other, they all know each other and they will share what little they have with each other. Liz, who I assume is in her forties is kind of like an elder to most of the younger people and she is highly respected in their little community. Although I don’t smoke, Liz always offers me a cigarette when I am sat with her, and I know that she probably values each one of those cigarettes a great deal because of the effort required to obtain them…but she still offers them.
I have developed a great deal of respect for these people and whenever I can I will give them my time and I will often buy them food when I see them. Something as simple as a sandwich makes them so happy and they always express a great deal of gratitude for it. Seeing them smile, when it seems that they are constantly faced with adversity, is my reward. But, I want to do more! I believe that I can help them and make a real difference but I believe that it needs to be in a sustainable way and in a way that isn’t just providing a charity. I don’t completely know how but I do know that however it gets done, it needs to really promote their personal power and to help them realise their true potential on their terms. I don’t think that simply giving them everything, money, food, shelter, is the answer. If they are simply given everything they come to rely on it and they don’t gain any sort of independence or self-sustainability. They need help to go through a personal, and spiritual, transformation, where they can build up their confidence and learn the skills they need to cope with the kind of pressures/challenges that life throws at us from time to time.
I think at the end of the day the biggest factor is going to be what they want. No matter how much help you can offer a person, if they don’t want it, or unconsciously take pleasure from, or derive their sense of self from their physical circumstances, they won’t realise the opportunity to go through a positive transformation. If, however, they did want it, and they were willing to do whatever it takes, then just maybe I can be there and help them in a way that truly changes their inner life and their outer life.