Say hello, that’s all.
Just say hello.
A simple hello. Look me in the eye and say hello.
Please. Please don’t pass me by or cross the street. Your whispers to your friends breaking my heart. The looks of disgust reinforce what I’m starting to believe, that I am no one.
I may be homeless but I’m just like you. Flesh, blood, human. My heart beats and breaks, so does yours.
I may speak to myself or look a little crazy to you.
Do you use that word crazy about me? Do you? They say a homeless person’s mental health starts to go after three days on the streets. Some of us got here because of our mental health issues. So please, next time you think of calling me or my friends crazy, don’t. We’re just calling you Pearl Jam fans. You’re people who’re going to a concert.
I’m a person who lives in a shelter or on the street or in my car or a disused building. Even so, I’m a person even if you might forget that sometimes.
Please say hello. Even ask me my name, I do have one you know. It’s not the drunk, the bum, that fucking tramp, get a job you lazy prick. I have a name.
Just like you.
Some of us drink, use drugs, that’s why some of us got here, others use it to get through the day.
Most of us would love a job, some of us are too beat up we can’t. But with care, compassion and patience we may be able to work again. My buddy up the street knows all about tech stuff, I don’t I’m older but I used to love working with cars. The lady over there, she was a waitress but the place closed down and she couldn’t find another job, then the bills, the rent…anyway, you know the story. Or do you? Or are we all just bums? Did you ever stop and talk to one of us and find out how we got here? You know a lot of us were abused? You knew that.
A day of shame, hopelessness, hunger, grief. A day spent looking down, a day spent waiting for it to end, to turn into night to hopefully sleep. A night of rest, maybe somewhere dry and safe. Sometimes we get pissed on by drunk people but that’s ok, they’re on a night out so getting drunk is acceptable and who cares, I’m just a bum and it was only for laughs.
I might make it through the night. If I do I might find some food or somewhere to wash. I forget I don’t wash because when I remember the shame is so great I want to die. I don’t want to stink. None of us do. The guy who lost his good job and couldn’t pay the mortgage, then his wife left and he slept in his car thinking there’d be another job but there wasn’t. The lady whose husband beat her and no one did anything and she ran away to nowhere because it was better than beatings. She wants to wash. To sleep in a bed. The booze gets her through the pain, the terror. She hasn’t started working the streets. Some do. They all hate it. We’d all love a wash. Oh to soak in a hot bath then sleep in a bed with fresh sheets. I remember that. It’s been a while though.
Just say hello. Please. Find out my name. Take ten minutes before you see your band, stand in line for a tshirt.
Go to your show. Have a great time. These shows might change our lives, that band you love are doing so much. But I still need to be seen, it won’t happen overnight. See me as human. My heart beats like yours, breaks like yours.
I have a name.
Do you have the time to find it out, to treat me as a person before you go to your rock n roll show? Before winter comes and some of us die from the cold.
My friend used to go and see your band before he had the breakdown that lost him his home. He tells me he couldn’t get out of bed for weeks and lost his job, depression really hits some people hard. He says sometimes a crowd at a Pearl Jam concert all scream hello. We laugh and say imagine if just one said hello today, just one stopped and didn’t walk on by.
Can you be that one? Please?
I do have a name.
I’m tired. So fucking tired.
I’m tired of reading about another death by suicide. Knowing that for each one I read there are hundreds I don’t read about, knowing that so many people are suffering.
Tired that mental health is massively underfunded in this country yet we can spend billions on bombs.
I’m heartbroken that we’re taught to say nothing when we’re hurting by a society that prizes false positivity. A society that, on the whole, would rather we ignore or bury our wounds than listen to them.
As a young man the only thing that would stop the fantasies of killing myself were drink and drugs. I couldn’t tell anyone, I got fired from a job because my performance dropped. It dropped because it’s hard to do paperwork properly when I’m wishing I had a gun to shoot myself with. I couldn’t tell anyone I lived with so I suffered in silence. Then I drank and used to quiet the torturous scenes playing in my head. And this was a pattern. Use something, anything to stop the visions.
I’m tired of meeting people who have asked for help but are put on waiting lists. Tired that a broken heart isn’t taken as seriously as a broken finger because it can’t be seen.
There are many reasons Given To Live exists. One is to tell the hurting they matter. Because so often that’s what we need most, to feel like we matter. But when we lose our voice and don’t speak our suffering we likely won’t feel like we matter. We have to feel safe, have to know the listener won’t dismiss our story. Our broken hearts brake that little bit more when we hear…oh, that’s not so bad…I had it worse…count your blessings, there’s others worse off…put your big boy/girl pants on…the list of platitudes is endless. And they each hurt.
There is more mental health awareness than before. And there needs more. Much, much more.
Some while ago I was journaling and the question ‘Am I loving now?’ came through.
Am I loving now? Am I? I am now as I write this and honour the part of me that is creative and expressive. A child part,perhaps,that wants to be seen,to be heard. To be acknowledged. An adult who struggles with being expressive and dancing the delight that for me is writing.
Kind, generous people have encouraged me to write. Spirits have kept gently insisting.
Three, four, maybe five years ago the fierce question Am I Loving Now came to me. And at last I am choosing to answer this question and,boy,does this scare me. Terrifies me as this is a truly life changing question. It’s not one that allows hiding,no shirking the truth.
In the spirit in which this question has been asked of me I commit to writing here at least three times a week.
The question is a Soul question, a life question. For me, for you. One of the many reasons I’ve avoided writing this is because a perfectionist lives inside me that says ‘How can you write this? Who do you think you are? Look at your life,look at you! Who would ever listen to you? Get perfect then come back!’ Well,if I waited for that I’d never turn up and the shame,my shadow would win.
So I’m showing up here. I can feel my belly leaping but it’s time to love myself now by taking a risk,by showing up here. I love writing. Absolutely love it. And yet I also know its a gateway into me and that scares me as its an honest gateway.
So, I’m going to leave this opening to my question for today and leave you a poem. My favourite lovers poem because the lover that David Whyte asks us to meet is myself. Is yourself. And when I choose to meet me I truly am loving me.
There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.
I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.
Years ago in the Hebrides
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of baying seals
who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water
and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them
and how we are all
preparing for that
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love
so that when
we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
us, and everything confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don’t
after all this struggle
and all these years
you don’t want to any more
you’ve simply had enough
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness
however fluid and however
dangerous to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.
— David Whyte
from The House of Belonging
©1996 Many Rivers Press
(This was written in December, with the snow and freezing conditions in the UK today this still holds true. And does every day.)
I’m on my way to meet two young people to let them know Given To Live is taking them to a show. This is what GTL does, tries through live music to make someone’s world a better place.
It’s a two train journey, over three hours travel each way. And it’s cold. I’m cold. Waiting on platforms I overhear people saying…my god it’s cold…its sooo cold…it’s freezing.
It really is freezing. And the countryside looks fantastic out of the train window, cloaked in white. And while I nip out to buy a warming coffee in between trains I see a young man sat motionless wrapped in a sleeping bag.
And I remember when I was homeless. It was summer, a warm summer and it still was chilly at night. It’s not like going camping when you’re looking for a safe doorway or car park. A safe space where no one will abuse you, attack you, piss on you because it’s a laugh on a night out.
Homelessness isn’t all drink and drugs. And even if it was wouldn’t you want something to take away the desolation? Some say it’s a choice…can you imagine how terrible a life must be to make that choice?
I’m going to be cold again when I get off this train. Then I’ll be picked and into the warmth of a car and taken to the college where the two young people are. I’m looking forward to writing the story, which I’ll do in the warmth. I won’t be afraid, humiliated, desperate for a place in a shelter that won’t have room for everyone who needs it.
This post won’t stop homelessness, won’t stop those who will freeze to death from dying. But maybe you can buy a sandwich or a hot drink.
Just as importantly you can look a homeless person in the eye and say hello, trust me it really makes a difference being treated as human. Maybe you’ve a spare jumper, coat, sleeping bag you could give away or donate to a shelter.
Not everyone is dreaming of a white Christmas.
The sea lions barked and shouted.
Played, pushed, lay peacefully and sniffed the air deeply.
The sea lions fought for position, to be the boss.
Fought to impress a lioness.
They shouted with full bellies, not worrying about the two legged watchers taking in the scene of nature at play.
Watchers who daily poison the sea lions world, daily dump toxic loads, daily lay murderous traps of discarded plastic.
Finished with barking, strutting, playing, sniffing and loving the sea lions slept.
Slept in front of the watching humans.
Arrogantly intelligent humans that aren’t smart enough not to destroy the world they live in.