My Heart, Your Home: Don't forget the homeless   

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Don't forget the homeless

As I Watch Evelyn grow and her personality form I admire her gentle steps, her soft touch and her kind heart. But I do foresee many battles that she will have to fight in her future. I can foresee many battles that I will have to fight in my future as her Mother. And even more battles that Anthony and I will fight, with or against each other, as two people who are completely opposite, trying to parent her. 

I think my Daughter has the ability to change the world. I think my Daughter has the heart of an angel and the touch of a healer. I think she has the type of kindness this world needs to see more of. I think she is growing to be just like her Mother was as a child. An idealist, a dreamer, a lover and a healer. These are all traits that are beautiful to hold and carry with you. But they are all traits that can be stolen from you. They are easily crushed and destroyed by other people's realism.

When I was a young girl I had dreams, such big passionate dreams, of fixing the world. Of giving love and warmth to those who had neither. I wanted to create a haven, a shelter, a "drop-in" centre for all those in the world who didn't have a safe place. Who didn't feel love. Who had nothing to eat and nothing to strive for. I wanted to give them love because I believe we all deserve love. I believe we all deserve a second chance. I believe, that just because you have fallen or you were born into a world without warmth, this does not mean you belong there or should have to stay there. 

There are many moments in my childhood and teenage years that I remember trying to articulate this love and these dreams and I remember having them crushed. I was laughed at. I was told that I cannot change the world. I was made to believe that I couldn't make a difference and somewhere along the way my passion died and I never even tried, not the way I wanted to. Not the way my little heart aches to. 

When I was 10 years old I was punished. I was playing in the backyard of a family friends house, with all of the other children while the adults were inside cooking a delicious dinner and sipping on beautiful wine. We were all dressed in new and clean clothes, shoes, our bodies and hair washed and our tummies about to be filled. We played with balls and a swing set and rode bikes. When a man walked past the gate I ran over and started a conversation with him. He smelt unwashed and looked dirty, his clothes tethered and worn, his head hung low and his face was covered in his sadness and his worries. That man needed a friend and he needed some company and he needed some food. So my 10 year old heart invited him in to join us in our afternoon celebration. That lonely man was chased out of the yard by the adults and I was chastised, yelled at and laughed at. I was asked "What on earth are you doing? We don't talk to strangers". I don't remember that man's name but I remember my response being "He isn't a stranger, he is *insert name here* and he was lonely and hungry". For that, I was grounded.

When I was 13 years old I used to go to church with my Mum every Wednesday night. There was always this man sitting at the back at the church on his own, holding his rosary beads. He looked old and sad, he had lived and lost and seemed to have nothing left at all. One day I decided to sit with him. From that Wednesday onwards, I spent my Wednesday night mass sitting with a man of 70 years. Holding his hand, listening to his stories, loving him and letting him love me. I was told I should not be near him, that he cannot be trusted. I was told many bad things about that man. But to me, he was just a man, desperate for a friend and that was all I wanted for him. I spent years sitting by him. Not saying much at all but in way, saying everything. One day, he died and I didn't know. I wasn't told. Not until a year later when I walked back into that church after so long and he just wasn't there. He was gone and I was never able to say Goodbye. But I remember him. I remember the way his eyes smiled when I sat by him. I remember the way he blessed me and the way he held my hand - like he hadn't been touched for years. I remember the happiness I bought him and the way I helped warm his heart. I believe I changed his life, if only for a little while and I know he changed mine forever. He was just a man who needed to be loved.

When I was 14 years old I travelled to Sydney for a getaway and I walked the dark beach front of Manly Beach. Along my walk I saw many homeless men and women and even children, spending their night covered in newspapers to stay warm. Trying to ignore their rumbling tummies and settling in for another long, dark, cold and lonely night on a park bench. I rushed to the fish and chip shop and bought the biggest serving of chips I could afford. I walked back to those lonely people and I sat down and started to talk. I offered them some of my chips, to which they all politely refused. I made conversation and I made friendly and then I left to go home to my bed. I left that box of chips there and I pray that they made themselves full and content on that meal. The next day I took myself to St Vincents and I bought as many blankets as I could carry and I caught the bus back to that park bench and I waited until the sun set and the lonely came to make their beds. I left them each with a blanket. I hope that I left them each with some warmth and the knowledge that they are remembered and thought of.

When I was 15 years old, I lived out of home. While I was out of home I lived in the house of two other young people, two boys. It was not a steady home nor was it consistent so there were times that I didn't live anywhere at all. I spent those times, settling in for a long cold night on a park bench and I remembered those whom I had given chips and blankets and I took solace in the fact that now, I can understand. It comforted me to know that I had been someone who brightened their day. People would tell me I should beg my Mum to let me move back home, but after what I had seen and the people I had met and the things I had experienced, I could not go to any home. I did not want to go back to a blessed life, owning things, having a bed, having clothes and blankets when so many do not. In that moment, I gave away everything I owned and I decided that I needed to know what it was like to have nothing at all. I needed to have that experience so that I could grow from nothing and know that I grew all on my own. 

When I was 20 years old, I went out for a night in the City for the first time. I spent my money on drinks and food and celebrating what a beautifully blessed life I have. Then, as I walked to catch a ferry home I noticed the people who had spent no money at all. I noticed the people who had spent their time looking for cover from the rain and warmth from the wind. Then I realised, I had let my dream fade and my passion die. In that moment I decided I needed to do something, so I spent my time searching for people who needed help and I left them coins. A little something under their blankets or in the trolleys to help them get through another day.

Now I am 25 years old and as I sit here writing this I cry. Because I have forgotten to care for the people who need caring for. I have pushed them aside and I have let them slip from my mind. I have come from nothing, I have built myself a life to be proud of and in doing so, I have forgotten the very thing that I never wanted to forget. That there is a world full of people who are less fortunate than I. That there are people sleeping in the cold and the rain who haven't eaten for days. As I take my shower there are people who cant remember what a shower feels like. I gave my things away so that I would always remember what it feels like to roam the streets and have nothing... to be nothing. 

In this moment now, I think about how I can raise my Daughter to keep the passion I know she is going to have. I am trying to discover a way, the right way, to teach her to embrace her kindness and her gentleness, but to also carry herself with pride and confidence. I need to teach her to be strong, but to stay gentle. I want to raise her to be all the things I know she can be and all the things that I wish were encouraged in me. I do not want the realism of others to crush her dreams, like it did mine.

I think my Daughter could change the world, in all the ways I have not.


  1. Beautiful, just beautiful.
    You should go see a play at the fiztroy pub in wooloomoloo called The Wrecking I think it would really appeal to you.

    1. Thank You Cass

      I just looked it up and it is definitely something I would love to watch however it says tonight is the last performance! Do you know if they would have another showing?


    2. It's not a new play I think it's performed by a few different companies around Sydney so hopefully it comes up again. Hopefully at the Fitzroy as its a wonderful venue!

  2. I think that it is wonderful to want to help and make a difference. I also think that is a wonderful trait to instill in our children, but we also need to teach them to be safe, and a 10,13,14 or 15 year old girl needs to be aware that men and women alike can be dangerous. Homeless, wealthy, drunk, sober, friendly or any other descriptive word does not mean that a stranger is safe, or that he is dangerous. But it does mean that we do have to be careful. So so should our children. Such is the World we live in.

    1. Of course we need to teach our children to be safe and that is why I am having so much difficulty trying to find the right way to parent my Daughter. Safety is not the issue within this story and I have been, and continue to be, very aware of how unsafe the world can be. I have suffered terrible consequences by making some of the decisions I have made in my life, but that is not the point. The point is that if my Daughter has the passion that I had I need to find a way to encourage that and let it blossom. Of course, this would always be under the umbrella of her personal safety.