Homeless but still thankful

A thankful but cautionary letter from a homeless man in the city of Trail, BC.

The story you are about to read is true, how do I know that it is true… because, it is my story. Sadly, it could become yours, no matter how often you say: “that could never happen to me”, and I know this because just like you, I too, believed it could never happen to me. And now, even if it comes across as sad or maybe pathetic to some, this is my life.

What happened? Why am I sitting alone, in a homeless shelter, twelve days before Christmas, eating a warm bowl of not so creamy cream of mushroom soup… my first and only meal of the day after sitting outside in the cold -4 degrees for six hours? How is it that a loving and doting father won’t be able to share even a few moments of Christmas with his children, the first time since their birth, when they live just blocks away?

I know there are many of you reading this that will think that I need to take control of this situation, that if I really didn’t want to be here I wouldn’t be, that I am probably just some chronic welfare case that is too lazy to work or that I am some whining, “oh woe is me” that blames his troubles on anyone or anything, other than himself.

But I am not, and if I had the resources to change my situation I would!

To tell you the truth I’m not really sure what happened, since it wasn’t long ago, not even six short months ago, that I had a lot going for me. I was just like most of you.

I am well educated and had a really good job, where I made decent money and had benefits; I was well known in the community and had friends that are doctors, lawyers, teachers and politicians; I excelled at the arts, winning awards for my drawings and paintings and I had my writings published regularly; I had a happy, loving family and though I shared custody of my children, I saw them on a regular basis. My life was… well, my life was really good.

Then suddenly, it went spiraling out of control. I never really saw it coming, and I would have to assume that if you asked anyone staying at a homeless shelter, they would say the same thing.

Unlike some of the people that find them selves in a homeless shelter, I do not drink or use drugs… I don’t even like to take aspirin for my headache; nor do I suffer from any mental health issues.

The only excuse I have to offer for my current situation is, that I, like so many others before me, made some bad choices that kept piling up until I reached the point in my life that I am now… destitute and alone.

I never thought to ask for help, or maybe it was I wouldn’t because of a little thing called pride, until it was way too late and it wasn’t just a matter of staying afloat anymore, but the panic of just not drowning.

There are so many different stories of how people ended up on the street, and if you meet one homeless person… well, you met one homeless person. Every one of them has a story, just as unique as they are, and just as sad and lonely. Many times we find ourselves avoiding them, taunting them, ignoring them; or we donate to services that provide for them, so we can say we did our part. But have you ever spoken to a person so down on their luck they don’t even have a home, taken them out for a coffee or even just offered them a warm and genuine smile.

I am homeless, but I do have a lot to be thankful for.

I have an amazing girlfriend that has stood by me through all of this, I have two beautiful children that I hope will one day forgive me for not being there for them this Christmas; there is the Salvation Army that has provided food and shelter and the volunteers and workers at the shelter; there is Pam who uses her own time to take me and some others out for coffee; I still have the sight in one eye, despite the fear that I could have been completely blind and there is Papa, without whom my life would have went spiraling and crashing a lot harder and faster than it did.

So while you are out running around, going to Christmas parties or shopping for gifts, don’t forget those around you, a smile and a hello goes a long way to make someone, even a total stranger, feel good, it isn’t about things, take it from someone who, quite literally has, “no”thing, it really is about people.

And for some of us it is all we have. Merry Christmas!

Robert Leggett