An essay on valuing the simple things in life…
If there’s one thing I learned I while staying in a homeless shelter, it is thus: those people know how to survive.
Living with a community of men, most mentally ill or ex-convicts, I found a family that I had never encountered before. We shared our struggles and triumphs, whether it be celebrating finding a dollar bill on the sidewalk or snagging a cookie from the grocery store.
Most of our days were filled with boredom and waiting in lines. In Cleveland, much was made about a free meal to have at a local church. An older gentleman named Jamie would walk with me every Saturday morning to St. Malachi’s church, where we filled up donuts, grits, and eggs, as well as pancakes.
The food was abundant and I was never hungry. I ate so much that I was able to chop up my food stamp card. By the time I left Cleveland I had over 800 dollars stored on it.
But being homeless was more than just finding a free meal. It was finding comfort in misery, finding hope in trashcans, and learning to survive on the little that Western mainstream society has to offer.
I found Christianity, free therapeutic services, daily chapel and a bus ride to one of the biggest Baptist churches in the country.
I was shown kindness and generosity, found God while sleeping on a cot, and never worried. In fact, my anxiety was so little I became what many call comfortable.
A routine was established. I worked in the soup kitchen as a dishwasher to pay my room and board. I attended worship Monday through Friday from 9-10 and then therapy from 10-111. After that, I visited the library where I participated in various reading groups as well a poetry and non-fiction writing workshop.
I found myself to become valuable. People appreciated the work I had to offer. Workers at the shelter said thank you on a regular basis and actually meant it. For once in my life, I felt I was contributing something more than just showing up to work for a measle paycheck. Life was started to shape up into something.
Then I came back to Toledo. A spirit came to me while laying in bed in the dorm one night and told me to leave. I was vocal and upset because I knew that I was in a good place. But Toledo was where I was destined to return.
Now that I’m back I find myself depressed and overweight again, spending my day in a role that can only be described aptly as a househusband, cooking meals and watching day soap operas. And I don’t even have a kid.
Walking seems to help a bit but the truth is Toledo, OH doesn’t have the community that Cleveland does.
I’ve been invited to a daily therapy service at a local mental health organization but have been skipping it since the first I went. Sitting in a room and listening to 10 people complain about their perceived problems and getting five minutes to talk about my own isn’t what I call help. That’s what I consider a waste of time.
The internet helps. But as I always say, I’ve never felt more alone than when on the computer. I can see faces but I don’t have interaction.
And so I have come back full circle, waiting on my disability check to get reapproved, while planning on getting my own house. I dream of a job but know work won’t bring me contentment nor spiritual growth, but rather busy work.
Nor will money fully satisfy all my needs.
Yes, it would be nice to afford a bus ride here and then, but where would I go? The mall to get fat on gyros?
Being homeless, I never went without. Staying with my mother in Toledo, I feel destitute. Does that even make any sense?
Western culture has nothing to offer me other than their usual prescription of antipsychotic meds and daily coping lessons. I don’t want cope, I want to transform.
Please, don’t take this essay as my cry for help. I have Jesus for that. But rather see this is a testimony to the truth of life that is being homeless. It’s not that bad folks.
So the next we see a homeless person, let’s not remark how sad that is because unless you’ve lived in those person’s shoes, you probably don’t even know how happy they are. Nor how miserable your own life is.
August 1, 2017