We all need compassion…
I met a homeless person at a children’s playground this week. She was accompanied by her three-legged dog, Stumpy, whom she had rescued off of the street a fortnight prior as he was left for dead. I had two choices that day, just like everyone else. 1: turn a blind eye, and awkwardly avoid her, or 2: say hello. I chose 2.
Sure – this lady, whom I’ll call Cheyenne, was a little rough around the edges. She let a few swear words slip, though trying her hardest not to in front of my children. Cheyenne told me she had been sleeping in a tent elsewhere in the park with an Aboriginal bloke she called uncle.
I asked her if she was hungry, to which she replied yes. I, in my lazy attempt to get out the door, had taken a whole hand of bananas with me to the park. I gave her the two I had left, and she gratefully scoffed down both, one after the other. I don’t know about you, but I do not voluntarily eat two bananas in a row. She had been starving, and was overly grateful for fruit that quite often goes black on my kitchen counter.
Cheyenne was living homeless whilst her four kids, two of which were close of age to my own, were in care with her mother. She had been trying to get housing, and as soon as she had secured it, she was also going to try and house her partner’s 18 month old child, as he was currently incinerated for domestic violence, against herself (it was a long story, but from what she told me, it did seem incidental – but without all the details, who am I to ascertain the verdict?).
Apparently, Ipswich homeless shelters were at full capacity, and Brisbane shelters weren’t worth the safety risk. I asked her if she was cold (with seemingly only one dress in her possessions). (Keep in mind Ipswich at nighttime is about three degrees celsius). Humbly, she responded no, as she had Uncle with her to keep her warm in the tent. Meanwhile I can waste money on central heating, wear multiple layers, and take my choice from a selection of blankets.
We both had kids, yet here I was at the park trying to fill in time and preoccupy my own, whereas Cheyenne’s were not with her. Kindly, she held my daughter’s hand as she navigated the playground. And so, we were at that point in time, just two mums in the park.
It is in these moments that life provides us with clarity, enabling us to reassess our gratitude. I could have very easily not have had this conversation with Cheyenne, and have most likely missed many opportunities to have similar conversations in my lifetime. I then wondered about this paradoxical divide that is prevalent in our society. The homeless, as statistics tell us, are everywhere. Yet, in our daily happenings, we maintain distance, intentional or otherwise.
I want to close that distance. Because really there isn’t a huge rift separating the homeless from us. And I would like to think if I were in that position, that humanity would reach out to me too.
Watch this space. I’m going to find out more.