“Oh hey bubba, how have you been”
I would instantly recognise that voice from anywhere –
I turned around and was greeted with a familiar smile and some of the most beautiful indigenous painting’s that I’ve seen.
With my work through Operation Mobilise, we’ve been blessed to spend time on the streets talking to many different individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
Mary is an elderly indigenous lady who I’ve met on previous outreaches but hadn’t seen in years.
She’s a modern day impressionist…
With something as simple as chalk she conveys a life-time worth of stories on the streets of our cities.
Not only does she bring joy to everyone she meets with her art, but she wears an infectious positive attitude and a smile that doesn’t waver.
She serves as a reminder that it’s our mindset & not our circumstances that define our happiness.
When we first headed out onto the streets to spend time with the homeless I naively thought about what I could do to help those I’d meet.
The reality is, I’m the one who has been learning through every conversation I have and every story that I hear.
The people who are homeless on the street epitomise resilience, grit & persistence.
We often complain about not having enough, or life being unfair –
I’ve met many people who are homeless who have been dealt a far worse hand, however still manage to view the world through positive lens.
As a founder of my own not-for-profit charity that aims to develop solutions for those experiencing homelessness, I’m often asked – what is the greatest lesson I’ve learnt?
If I was to distill it into one simple sentence…
Those on the streets are homeless yet not hopeless.
We are too busy to listen & too quick to judge.
Have you ever walked past a homeless person & diverted your eyes because you weren’t sure what to do?
Often, because we’re unsure how we can help, we are paralysed by inaction.
I’ve learnt that even the smallest gesture can make a huge difference to an individual.
Talking to people out there on the streets we’ve learnt that it’s not food or money that they need – it’s actually respect, dignity & our time.
The homeless are not foodless nor moneyless, there are support systems for these needs to be looked after.
It’s a home that they seek & home’s come in many forms.
We take for granted how critical a shelter with warm clothes & a bed is, but more importantly we don’t appreciate what a safe environment is.
A shoulder to lean on and a place to share their thoughts is such a simple request and it’s something we can all give.
When we’re at home and having a bad day, if someone asks us –
‘Is everything okay?’
Even if we dismiss it…
‘Yeah, I’m fine’
The sadness may persist, but deep inside we experience a feeling of warmth with the knowledge that people care and are looking out for us.
We all know the value of community so why can’t we extend this warmth to everyone we meet?
We aren’t willing to sit with those who need it most and ask them how they’re going.
Those who are homeless, have the same feelings and experience the full myriad of emotions that we all do.
Even if we can’t see the immediate difference in someone’s life, we have to become aware as a society that every little act of kindness counts.
It seems that if there isn’t a tangible return on our investment of time, we aren’t willing to help someone in need.
I think it’s time we redefine as a society, how we can help those on the street…
Instead of thinking about changing the world, it’s now time to start thinking about changing individual lives.
We spend so much time chasing after causes & campaigning for solutions for so many things.
It’s time to remember that every person who is homeless has a story to tell and is a person just like you & I.
It’s time for us to stop walking past people sitting on the streets because of our own fear & culpability.
It’s time to stop thinking that the problem is too big so there’s no point in us doing anything at all.
It’s time for the stereotype that every homeless person is that old junkie man drinking out of a brown paper bag to end.
We know how important it is to check in on our brothers, our sisters & all of our friends. Why have we left behind those who need it most?
A simple conversation truly can change a life.
We may not be able to change the world, but if we all set about changing just 1 life it would make a hell of a difference.
We live in a society that has so much, yet it’s those who have the least who have taught me the most about living.
The greatest exercise for the human heart is reaching down to lift someone up
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If you haven’t yet, please check out my first posts – Introduction: Who is Nahu, The Night I Almost Died, Are Our Lives Really That Bad, When Life Forgot The Lemons, The Life Lessons From Tanning, What’s The Worst That Can Happen?, My 4 Favourite European Cities, Time Isn’t Real, Life Without a Father, Running A Half-Marathon, Stories From The Street, Filter Bubbles, The Growth Mindset & My Biggest Fear!