It was a tough day for staff and clients at the Drop-In on Friday. When I got to work, the roadway was closed off with crime scene tape. Police cars, firetrucks, an ambulance littered the road. Clients and other passers-by stood outside the tape silently watching.
A man had been stabbed. He's going to live. But it was dicey for awhile.
I felt the ennui all day. The seeping away of energy. The sadness. The sense of futility, of why bother thinking, of what's the point questioning.
The point is, I care, as do the other 177 people who work at the Drop-In. As do the clients who considered the man who was stabbed one of them. As do the countless people who support us in our work of making a difference in the lives of those who believe they cannot make a difference.
Working at the shelter is important to me. Recently, someone asked me, why are you so passionate about working with homeless individuals. My answer, "because I believe it's important to help those without voice find their voices. It's important to give voice to the things that steal our voices."
Once upon a time, I lost my voice. I gave it up. Gave it away. Gave it over to an abuser who told me they had the right to take my voice and had the right to speak up for me. I gave my voice to him and in the process, I made a mistake that hurt me and those I love.
No one can take my voice -- unless I give them the right. When I give them the right, I abdicate all responsibility for my life. And when I give up on my life, I'm giving away my power and ability to make a difference.
And that is wrong -- for my life and for those I love.
When individuals turn to the street, to drugs and alcohol to soothe the pain raging in their hearts and minds, they are giving up their voice, their truth, their song.
I can't change what they've done, but I can make a difference by helping those who have been wronged by their actions and the actions of those around them to find their courage, their strength, their belief in themselves so that they can give voice to their dreams once again.
Antoine de Saint-Exubery, author of one of my favourite books, The Little Prince, wrote, "If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
On Friday, a man was stabbed across the street from the shelter and I felt hopeless for awhile. I saw the sea of futility, of hopelessness of despair and lost sight of hope and my belief in the immense capacity of the human being to change, to make a difference.
When I give up hope, I give into the voices who would say, "Them homeless, they deserve what they get." "Let them die on the streets." "It's their own fault." "They chose to be there."
No one chooses an addiction -- addicts nor addictions are that discriminating. No one as a child dreamt of being an addict or of being homeless. No one dreamt of the day they would crave a drug so badly they wanted to die. When believed they would die without it. And no one dreamt of the day when the label they carried would be, homeless, of no fixed address, vagrant, bum, blight on society, scourge and countless other labels we ladle out to explain away what is happening in our society.
Regardless of the circumstances of their lives, regardless of whether they have an 'address', or not, no one deserves to be stabbed. No one deserves to have their life threatened, or fingers chopped off because they didn't pay up for their drugs (as has happened to three clients over the past week).
While I don't agree with drugs and other addictions and I don't agree with what the media sometimes call, the 'high risk lifestyles' of many of our clients, I believe until such time as they can see that the life they're living is killing them, they need my help and the help of others to keep hope alive long enough for them to see the endless immensity of the sea of possibilities for change.
As long as someone is alive, hope is alive. But when they die, hope dies with them.
At the Drop-In, we keep hope alive. If we do nothing else, keeping people alive, and as safe as possible, is essential in the battle against addictions, poverty, violence, and crime. As long as we continue to do what we do, we will have an impact. We will keep hope alive.
With hope, there is always a chance for someone to put up their hand and say, "This life isn't working for me anymore. I need to make changes."
Last week a knife ripped through a man's body and anger ripped through me. In my anger, I wanted to give up. I wanted to turn away, to take the easy route, the safe path.Today, my anger has abated and I feel hopeful again.
I can't change someone's life. I can change the feelings of hopelessness that pervade their lives when they give up hope of ever being different, of ever having a different life. I can hold onto hope as they hold onto their lives desperately searching for the answers to the question they are afraid to ask, and too afraid to confront.
I can't stop someone from being stabbed. I can't stop anyone from picking up a needle and shooting poison into their veins. I can keep hope alive until they find the courage, and the strength, to start asking themselves the tough questions that will lead them away from the life they're leading back to the homes and the families who love them.
I can keep hope alive until they find the courage to stop and look and listen to the world around them so that they can see there is always a possibility for change. I can keep hope alive long enough for them to believe they can do it differently.
For those who support us, who donate their time, energy, financial and non-financial resources, you too are helping us keep hope alive. With your help, we make a difference in the lives who have given up hope of ever living life differently.