Sunday, November 28, 2010

The journeying journalist.

Readers have often suggested I should write the individual stories of the people I meet when I am on the road. This is something I have done only a few times… when I do, it is because that person had a particular impact on my experience with Angels of the Road. And there was that one time in Kelowna because the woman asked me to share her story. There are a few reasons why I avoid talking about specific individuals. Mostly it is about respecting people’s privacy. Also by telling an individual’s story the reader can focus in on the differences and separate themselves from the experience. Those of you, who know me, know that I am all about the oneness of humanity. I hope that what I write is always mindful of that fact.
For anyone who wants to read the individual stories of the homeless, there are any number of good books at the library. I recently read, “Radical Compassion” by Father Gary Smith a Jesuit Priest working (at that time) in Portland Oregon’s old town. It reminded me very much of the people I met during my time in Vancouver’s DTES. Also on my, to read list are “Realm of the Hungry Ghost” and “All My Sisters”.
Radical Compassion” focused entirely on street people (and the mentally ill), the reason for this is simple; these stories are more interesting than those of  the working poor who drift in and out of the shelter system due to poverty and substandard housing. Stories about addiction and schizophrenia evoke much sympathy but very little empathy… yet 59% of Canadians live one pay check away from homelessness. These are the unsung masses that represent 50% of Canada’s 300,000 (or more) homeless. This commonality of experience is what makes their stories relatively boring and overlooked by journalists.
But it is a struggle which most of us can relate to, finding work, making the rent, covering necessities; the day to day uncertainty. Since coming to Hamilton I am neck deep in that scenario. Two months of prolific looking, both in and out of the shelter industry and I’m still unemployed. In time one begins to wonder what you are doing wrong. Even in a bad economy, a part of us takes these things on as a personal failures. I can well imagine if one were a drinker or a person of little faith, that ongoing rejection could lead one into a downward spiral, which would be hard to reverse. I cling to the belief that there is a lesson in this experience which the Creator will eventually make me aware of. Ok, I think I’m drifting into an ADD moment… Short answer is that we have to remember, “There, but for the grace of God…etc”.

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