Prior to going to Paris & London for my first time in 1993 I decided to read George Orwell’s book “Down and out in Paris and London” – the book is part memoir about Orwell’s slip into homelessness. It opened my eyes to how quickly this can happen. As someone who is adopted, I have lived with the fear that I will end up homeless one day which is fuelled by the belief that no one truly has my back. These beliefs subconsciously set in when I overheard a family member say “blood is thicker than water, and she’s not blood related”. This homelessness fear also was ignited when I was diagnosed with the major mental health conditions that I have experienced and acknowledge that many people on the streets suffer the same diagnostic fate that I do. Underlying these diagnoses for many is trauma. We need to shift the questioning from “what is wrong with you” to “what happened to you”. Not so we can stay stuck in the story, but so we can understand how to solve the pain we are so afraid to feel.
What shocked me most on my travels was the amount of homelessness – families with children, mothers breast feeding their babies; elderly; people needing medical attention; and oh so many struggling with addictions of all kinds. It was heart breaking. The people you see on the street are, first and foremost, PEOPLE. No one is immune to homelessness yet as a society we turn a blind eye to the crisis we have on our hands globally. I found myself wanting to solve this global crisis of humanity. I even found myself saying to my son (who keeps getting asked what he is going to do when he graduates from high school next year)– maybe you can be the one to solve this crisis of humanity. No pressure there – thanks mom – was his response.
Is there a solution? How do we solve this issue?
A teenager I met while travelling said he didn’t witness any homelessness in Croatia and when I asked why he thought that was he said:
“Because they take care of each other”. Reread that. “They take care of each other”. Wise words of wisdom from a young person.
How as a global society can we take better care of each other? We need to address trauma, the economic disparity that exists, the “me and only for me” accumulation of wealth at all costs mentality that I thought was endemic to North America & I now I realize is a global phenomenon. Dare I say another pandemic that we need to talk more about. If 0.5% of the world’s population makes greater than $50,000 how can we help the 99.5% of the people on the planet that need a helping hand? How can we truly pay it forward? How can we step up? Stand up? Rise up?
Can we solve this? I certainly hope so.
It also reminds me of a conversation I had regarding the homelessness (and addiction) problem we have on East Hastings street in Vancouver, BC (my hometown). My friend said that when she drives down that street she looks the other way……which, ironically, is one of the reasons there is a problem. We simply look the other way. We don’t want to see it. We don’t want to look. You know the “out of sight, out of mind, not my problem” mentality.
By looking the other way, we think the problem doesn’t exist. It is akin to sweeping the issue under the proverbial carpet. But that is a deep delusion. It exists. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution. The problem with the “sweep it under the carpet” mentality is eventually, as you keep sweeping, you build a wall that you keep walking into. There is no way around these issues. We need to look deep within our own hearts. We need to look at our brothers & sisters on the street as if they ARE our brothers & sisters. We need to truly see them in order to understand them before we can help them heal.
As a student in the spiritual principles of compassion, love, acceptance and unconditional love – I have read that we are ultimately one. there is no other. What you see in someone that you don’t like is something that you have within yourself that you aren’t willing to look at or have disowned. Often referred to as “the shadow” or “the darkness”. And most people are afraid of the dark. So they live in fear. Not love.
A mantra that I have found helpful to say upon waking is asking the universe “where would you have me go, what would you have me say and to whom”? By continuing to speak less, listen more, stay grounded and listen to the answers every morning to those questions, I trust that my intentions will be divinely guided throughout the day.
In 1997 I went on a mission trip to Nicaragua. It changed my life and was one of the influences behind my career change to become a Naturopathic doctor. It was ironic that I was there to change people’s lives but in actuality, they changed my life. What I witnessed amongst abject poverty was pure joy, happiness and love. They didn’t have the material wealth that many have in North America, but they had spiritual wealth that is lacking in our hearts. This experience taught me that the material pursuits of the world (ie money, cars, big homes, etc) is not what we should be striving for as a measure of a life well lived. But rather, how well did you love, how well did you give and how many hearts did you touch?