Friday, October 05, 2007

It Is Not What Happens; It Is What We Do With It. By Dave C.

Written by: Dave C., Senior Supervisor

A decade ago, I was tired. I had been running my entire life believing the reward for all my pain was around the next corner. At each corner, was another corner. The maze of desperation had no exit thus I sought the ultimate escape. My suicide attempt failed and I was hospitalized. I sought salvation from doctors and medications. The glimmer of hope faded when nothing changed. I believed the world was divided between winners and losers; between the loved and the unloved. I believed I had been shorted in the lottery of life and I was destined for an existence of emptiness. I hid from my hollowness in the oblivion of addiction. My resources ran out and I ended up on the streets.

Coming from the suburbs, previously having experienced the inner city from sealed car windows as I drove by, I expected the worst. To my surprise I wasn’t mugged, stabbed, or even judged. The people I met were as lost and as hurt as me. The people I met welcomed me.

In the darkness of my bed at night, fears would emerge. I tried to forget the past and the future by being grateful for today. I looked up and saw the roof over my head; I rubbed my stomach and felt the food digesting inside. I was ok and I said Thank You.

City streets are hostile when you have no place to call your own. While these streets were my home, there was no welcome mat in place for a person like me who had no money and no position. Signs such as “No Loitering” and “Restrooms for Paying Customers Only” reinforced what I always believed – I did not belong. New anxieties were added to the old thus I feared each step. While most shielded their faces from me or tried to look through me, a few acknowledged me. These moments gave me strength.

I feared the night for, while I slept in a room with many, I was alone in my despair. I again thanked the roof over my head and the food in my stomach. To this I added thanks for the kindness displayed by a few among the masses. Peaceful sleep followed this gratitude.

Survival and routine covered old wounds. Hopelessness extinguished want. I was safe and I no longer had to run.

A smile from a stranger penetrated my armor. The sincerity was overwhelming and it initiated a quest to discover what was being smiled at. I had always focused on what was wrong with me, that smile indicated something may be right with me. That smile lives in my heart to this day.

With that smile, my world began to change. I had found simplicity and complacency, a place to hide from myself. This no longer sufficed. Like a slow burning acid, that smile penetrated my soul and forced me to re-enter the world I had fled. I knew the demons of the past were lurking outside my lair but the love inherent in that smile gave me the courage to move on.

Most of my life I thought I was living in anguish. My journey from the shelter towards myself taught me the true meaning of hell. It was long and arduous. I had to face the demons I had been running from for most of my life. Through the help of others and through the strength of that smile, I was able to embrace these demons, thank them and let them go.

Today I am free. Today I am loved. My journey through hell taught me two things:

1. We are all winners if we choose to be.
2. We are all loved if we allow ourselves to be loved.

Ten years ago, I was living in a homeless shelter. Today I am employed as a Senior Building Supervisor in one of the largest homeless shelters in Canada.

It is not what happens; it is what we do with it!

Written by: Dave C., Senior Supervisor

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