Read a shortened version of this post, published by Elite Daily here: http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/approaching-homelessness/1231641/. Read the full version below:
I told Marshall* (name changed for anonymity) about how he had inspired me. I asked him for permission to write about the following experience; he willingly agreed and offered to share his perspective as well—provided in the italicized segments.
I had seen Marshall* around Nashville a few times. I once gave him a ride to eat dinner with some of our mutual friends. That was the extent of our acquaintanceship. I received a call from Marshall* one afternoon; he had nowhere to live.
I was too depressed and paralyzed with fear to go and look for a job… And the day came when I got the delightful news that I was being kicked out [of my halfway house]. I didn’t know what to do. I tried calling around. No halfway houses had beds for me, or I couldn’t get in because I have no money for an intake fee. I remembered this girl I had met a few times and called her about staying there. Thank God she said yes. I felt so relieved. Everyone thought I was so lucky to be sleeping at Allison’s house because she is a very beautiful girl. But what they don’t know is years of this cycle, over and over, from state to state isn’t very fun to not know where you’re going to sleep—this time being sober. I was just so thankful that I didn’t have to sleep outside (or so I thought).
For the following week, Marshall* stayed at my home and sought housing options.
So day after day, I spent the majority of the time trying to find a place to sleep. Panic started to settle in because I knew I had to find a place by Wednesday, because Allison was going out of town on a business trip. Tuesday dreadfully rolled around and I had run out of every option I could think of or was suggested to me. At this point I was so broken and I could really feel the weight in my chest. I kept trying to stay positive because I was afraid of affecting Allison and making her depressed. That was the last thing I wanted to do. So hours go by, nothing. And the moment finally came and I just prayed, “God, what do you want me to do?” And the thought came to me… homeless shelter.
I was hesitant. I offered other ideas. Marshall* explained why it would be the best place for him to call home at this time in his life. I tried to stop fighting the idea in my head.
Could I really drop my newfound friend off at the doors of a homeless shelter, and then go about my life? Would it be sanitary? Would it be dangerous? Would he be safe? Would he be targeted by or embraced by his new shelter mates? I had to push these questions out of my mind. It was Marshall*’s will to go to the homeless shelter; he believed it was God’s will.
I felt relieved because I knew I would have a shelter over my head. As I told Allison my plan, she was very reluctant. She kept trying to give me other options and I just told her, “No, this is what God wants me to do.” So we packed up everything and we headed on to the rescue mission. On the way, Allison played a song, “One Last Time” by Ariana Grande, and I’ll never forget it. She started to cry. I smiled and put my hand on her back and said, “Don’t worry about me, girl. I’ll make it. I always do.” When I got my stuff out of her car, I could see the look on her face like, “Don’t do this.” We looked at each other, and I smiled and gave her the biggest hug I’ve given someone in a long time. I’ve never really had friends in my life so I latch onto people. I really didn’t want to go, but I had to put my big boy pants on and face the consequences of my actions.
I had to accept I could not manage other people’s lives. I could not persuade them to go against what they perceived to be God’s will. I stopped fighting the inevitable. In the hours leading up to our arrival at the homeless shelter, Marshall* unknowingly taught me several life lessons.
“I have to totally humble myself.”
Reaching out for help is an act of humility. Many of us have egos and insecurities that are too big to allow us to ask others to help us. Marshall* inquired for help with several people and institutions. When he ran out of options, Marshall* decided to face his living situation head on. He accepted his circumstances. He humbled himself before God and asked for guidance. He was led to a homeless shelter. Now he would be humbling himself before others living with the simplest means. When we catch ourselves spinning our wheels, how much time and heartache would we save by humbly reaching out to others for help?
“If you take away my material belongings, I’m exactly like ‘them’ [homeless people].”
If you strip all worldly items from people, how much different are we from one another? No one has more dignity or more of a right to life than any other human. We’re all here on earth experiencing the human condition. We simply trek along different paths on our journeys. Marshall*’s journey intersected with the homeless community, people who happened to have the same circumstances regarding shelter at this time in their lives. Marshall* did not see himself as “different” from or better than the people he would be living with. He did not put himself on a different plane. If we all viewed ourselves as no better than any other human beings, how much more compassionate, understanding, and giving would the world be?
“It can only go up from here.”
If we feel like we’re at our rock bottom, we can either remain where we are or climb upwards. There’s always a bright side when we lean on hope. Hope is powerful. Rather than dwelling on unfortunate circumstances, thinking about, planning for, and having faith in a better future can keep us heading in a positive direction one day at a time. Marshall* didn’t view homelessness as tragic; he viewed it as a new starting point from which to build his life. When we find ourselves experiencing lows, do we dwell in sadness and anger or do we hope for and work towards remedies and solutions?
“When I weather this storm, I’ll be prepared for something greater.”
Each experience we have provides tools for facing life in the future. Whether we figure out how to deal with complicated situations or figure out how to healthily deal with emotional turmoil, we now have references to better handle life in the future. Each struggle strengthens us for the next one. Marshall* chose to view his homelessness as a training ground. One day he’d leverage this experience for something incredible. How much more positive and hopeful would the world be if we all viewed our hardships, obstacles, and conundrums the way Marshall* does?
“I can be of service where I’ll be living.”
At one of Marshall*’s lowest points, he was thinking about serving others. He wasn’t entirely preoccupied with himself and his own wellbeing. He was looking forward to service work. Whether it’s with direct eye contact and a smile, by lending a listening ear, or by sharing a meal, everyone has something to offer others. How can we serve someone else each day? By calling someone going through a tough time? By dropping off leftover food near where the homeless community often congregates? No act is too small.
“I see it as a blessing. I’m grateful for the opportunity to live there.”
Not many people are faced with living in a homeless shelter or going without shelter period. Many people consider living in a rescue mission as being unthinkable. What could be seen as a curse Marshall* viewed as a blessing. Living at a rescue mission was the next step in his life’s journey. It was an opportunity to begin building his life from the ground up, literally. How much more hopeful and grateful would we be if we searched for opportunity in our hardships?
As Marshall* requested, I let go and let God. I check in to see how his journey is going. He has slept on hard floors and piles of pine needles. He kept the faith and maintained a happy and hopeful heart throughout his experience with homelessness. He has seized opportunities to improve his circumstances and his life. He is doing better by the day.
I’m currently at a halfway house, and I’ve never been more blessed to have a roof over my head. I also found a job. I haven’t had one since I was 15. I’m 22 now. I don’t deserve these blessings that my Higher Power has given me and is currently giving me. It still blows my mind I went from sleeping under a tree to having a job and a place to sleep by just doing the next right thing and, most importantly, not getting high. When homeless, I was offered drugs constantly and I turned it down, when sometimes my mouth watered for it in the state of mind I was in. I am celebrating four months of sobriety today, and I am blessed and grateful to be alive. A heroin junkie like me shouldn’t be here. With the things I’ve done—if life was fair, I should be dead or in prison. But I’m here for a reason and I can’t wait to find out why today. I’ve learned a lot about this little adventure—patience, tolerance, humility and gratitude. There’s a lot I left out but if you would ask me to change anything, I wouldn’t. The feeling I have on the inside is the greatest I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m beginning to love myself. For someone who has hated himself his whole life, it’s a miracle. I’m so grateful to be alive today and I can’t stop smiling. Each day I wake up and I can’t wait to live.
I’m a better person now that I know Marshall*. Thank you for everything you’ve taught me about life. Thank you for your friendship.