Holding onto hope

I cried yesterday. I was driving down a road, listening to CBC and without any ceremony or warning, tears started flowing from my eyes. “Stop it!” the critter hissed. “Let me be,” my compassionate self replied.

I knew I was out of balance. I pulled over and breathed and reminded myself, “Sadness is here. I am not alone.” And, unlike the flood damage in our city, my tears dried leaving me refreshed.

Later, I was walking with two co-workers to grab a bite to eat when we passed a man who appeared to be in distress. I walked over to where he was leaning against a tree and asked him if we could help. “You don’t look like you’re feeling very well,” I said.

“I’m not,” he replied. “I feel all dizzy and weak.”

“How about we walk you over to that bench over there and see what we can do?”

And so, we walked to the bench and sat down. His name was Jeff. He’d been staying at the Drop-In when it was evacuated and rather than go up to the site of their emergency/emergency shelter, he chose to ‘sleep rough’. “I couldn’t take that chaos,” he said.

“Have you had much to eat?” I asked him.

He shook his head. “My stomach is too upset to eat,” he said. And he blamed it on the fish fillet burger he’d had the night before.

“How about we get you a juice?” and Wendy my co-worker ran into the restaurant in front of which we were sitting to grab one. His hands shook as he brought the juice to his mouth. His eyes were rheumy. His shoulders slumped. We sat and chatted and eventually he agreed to try some food. Wendy bought him a sandwich and he took it with the promise to eat it, later.

He refused to let us call for assistance and promised to sit on the bench until he felt well enough to walk again.

In the warm afternoon sunlight we sat and shared the moment. He told me about his four years living at the shelter. Of his sadness of what had happened in his life, his fear that he would never be able to get out. “I was so sick the first two years I was there,” he said. “It’s what forced me there in the first place. I got too sick to work and lost my place. I thought of going back to temping this spring but I just can’t seem to get myself together long enough to be able to do it.”

We sat quietly for a few moments. I asked again if we could call for help. Again he refused.

When we left him he was sitting in the afternoon sun, one of thousands of homeless in this city of flooded houses and streets and buildings. For Jeff, his homelessness will not end when the power is restored and the debris cleaned up. His homelessness will not be over when the garbage is carried out and homes are rebuilt.

There is no rebuilding of his Β home. No clearing out of debris from his life. He sits. A lone man on a bench lost in the underbelly of homelessness. A silent figure searching for a way back home and fearing he’ll never find it. He has lost all hope.

I cried yesterday morning and then again on my way home in the evening. I thought about Jeff and the hundreds of others who have no home to go back to. And I thought about the work we do at the Foundation where I work and what all the agencies do who are working so hard to get people back home to a place of their own. Like our Mayor who is working tirelessly to keep the people of our city safe and to instill hope that they will be able to go back home, the agencies providing housing first to homeless Calgarians keep hope and the dream of going home alive.

Jeff and so many others, have lost all hope of going home. They know they have a place to stay every night. They know, thanks to shelters like the DI and Alpha House and The Mustard Seed and Inn from the Cold, they know they can find a meal, a caring hand, a welcoming place. What they don’t know is, how to get back home. What they don’t know is how to find their way to a place of their own. Emergency shelter is an important step in keeping people safe, but it is not home. No matter how hard we want to believe it is. It is not home.

I met a man on the streets yesterday. He reminded me that no matter how lost we become, we must hold out hope and compassion and love and care for those who are struggling to find their way back home. Even when we cannot do anything more than give them a juice, a sandwich and a smile, we cannot give up hope that they will get back to the place where they belong — home.

It is like this city. As people muck out their basements and survey the damage, we must hold onto hope, even in those moments when they are feeling the despair of all that they have lost. We must hold out, hold onto, and be held by hope, love and compassion.

And in our holding onto hope, even when they feel lost, we restore the thing they want the most, the way back to a place to call their own.

17 thoughts on “Holding onto hope

  1. Elgie,

    the job – flood or no flood – is endless

    if you wanted to stop starvation, to feed everyone on the planet, you would drive yourself crazy – so, we try to feed more people

    you cannot stop homelessness by yourself – just as no organization can, but you can help some people, and then help some more

    which is what you do, again and again but it is probably like the flood – no matter how much you bail, the water keeps coming

    but, what you did for Jeff was a good dead

    what you did for your readers, was remind us that we can all spot the Jeff’s, and we can all reach out to help or to get them help

    we can’t help all the Jeff’s in the world, but if we all help one … or two more than before, we’ll help a lot more

    your methodology – with Jeff, is easily transferrable to others, though some won’t be named Jeff and some might look scary, you demonstrate how easy it could be

    that is your message – take that to the world, talk about that more, write about that more and you will help many thousands of Jeff’s. Then you can start on the Bob’s, Don’s and Tony’s




    • What a lovely and inspiring reply Mark. Thank you!

      gotta got. I hear Bob and Don and Tony are in need πŸ™‚

      Hope your’e enjoying this beautiful sunshine. I hear there’s a train stuck on a bridge that is threatening to collapse into the Bow. Now that’s where I know I cannot help. πŸ™‚


  2. My heart is with you Sister In Spirit. I think it helps to know the level of help we can offer a person in the moment is exactly what is needed. But, like we all have to learn in this life, we have to let the help in. So, try as you might, Jeff would only allow so much help in, but he got what he needed in that moment. And there you were, like angels of light and love only. Perhaps your act of kindness will soften him to allow even more help in. I pray for Jeff, and others like him, regardless of where they live or what they do. Ultimately, the home we are all going back to is pure Spirit, where everything is equal.


    • So true Sheryl. and as I read your words I realized that the home we all inhabit is pure Spirit, and everything is equal.

      What a lovely feeling of light and love.

      I hope you are healing and shining and receiving all the help you need. Hugs my Spirit Sister.


  3. This is beautiful, truly. I do try to stop for people. But I wonder how many people, in my haste, do I miss without seeing? Hopefully, I see the ones people miss and others see the ones I miss. These are the times and things to do that are most important. You let him know he was important, such acknowledgement can be so healing.I am sure he usually feels invisible! xo


  4. Louise, I love you for what you do, and for writing about it, so we can know. Sometimes, I wonder how a little light can glorify our Father in Heaven. But this is such a beautiful example of being there and caring, showing love for someone who probably is not even in a position where he can recognize it as love. You haven’t said who’s disciple you are. But I know you are serving in love. And that tells me something.


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