The feeling from the night and the people I met are imprinted in my brain and soul.
If you are one of those fortunate people who watch a confronting documentary or film, or after reading a great book, the emotions stay with you; it impacts you; this is the same feeling, only magnified by 100.
Many people shared their stories; however, there were two ladies who stood out, and I was lucky enough to talk with them afterwards. One of these lovely ladies, in her 40s, spoke about cardboard being a luxury and not always having access to it. She told of feeling self-conscious of her appearance, the dirt and the shame, making it even harder to approach shops, asking for the cardboard to sleep on. When she spoke about this, there was no blame or anger; it was just a fact and the reality of the situation.
The manner in which she delivered her story was inspiring–she separated the person she was then from the person she is now. There didn’t appear to be anger, just acceptance and no shame or embarrassment. While listening to her story, I felt for her situation, but I didn’t have pity or feel sorry for her.
Instead, we were on the same level discussing a serious topic, exploring the real issue, not a surface conversation. This skill of hers is a rare acquired one, I am sure very few of the CEOs at the Sleepout would have. The profound personal transformation she must have gone through as a result of her experience is inspiring and grounding at the same time.
For all of the stories I heard from the speakers, what occurred to me is they are just like you and I. If it weren’t for their stories, it would be hard to tell they were ever homeless. They were well presented, articulate, intelligent, informed etc. What may set them apart from you and me, though, is their level of gratitude and appreciation. How they spoke about Vinnies, their family, their employers, their life and what they have now was–humbling.
Not to sound like a hippy, but they had a lovely ‘energy’, and I wanted to be around them. I found them funny; we had things in common, and I even felt a little sad when they left.
Is this what it feels like to be around people who are not judging and don’t expect something from you? Or is it about the necessity to strip away the illusions of what we think are our needs and desires? I like to think I am someone who is grateful and grounded, but I now believe there is so much more I can appreciate.