We were pleased to take part at a ‘radical welcome’ event at the Octagon Chapel in Norwich recently looking at how our society can welcome those who are vulnerable and need support. An interesting part of the event was to move away from the ‘us and them’ mentality in the traditional sense of those who offer support and those who are ‘service users’ and move towards a society that values people, whatever their backgrounds and experiences.
One of our clients, James, spoke on the evening and he said that giving another person a moment of your time is one of the most precious things you can give.
This is what James said:
“I found myself homeless after the breakup of a relationship and as I had nowhere to go I ended up sleeping rough in Norwich.
For 2 ½ years in total, I was sleeping rough, in between hostels and sofa surfing when I could.
While I was sleeping rough I discovered just how judgemental and downright horrible other human beings could be.
For example: I have been thrown up on, urinated on, spat at, names called, shoes, sleeping bag and all my worldly goods stolen – basically treated like a dog only we wouldn’t treat a dog like that would we?
We would be reported if we did this to a dog so why should people behave like this to others who just happen to be having a tough time?
As human beings we all make mistakes and we all have bad days – some of us just cope with them better and no one knows if or when they might end up sleeping in a doorway.
Who in this room can honestly say they have never ever ever made a mistake?
I certainly never thought it would happen to me. I have travelled the world, I speak nine languages and have held down bloody good jobs if I might say so!
So, how do you think you would feel if you were sat on the pavement and everyone ignored you? No eye contact, no smiles, no hello’s – treated as if you were invisible.
That’s how it can feel when you have nowhere to go. It makes you feel like sh*t to be honest, like you are worthless and there is no point to your existence.
So how do we change this? The simplest thing that any human being can do for someone in this position is to acknowledge them. Just a smile or a hello can turn that person’s day around. The very fact that they have been noticed can make a huge difference.
If you are brave enough, buy a cup of coffee and sit and have a chat to them. You don’t have to ask their life story, the why’s and the what’s of why they are there, just show some non judgemental compassion for another person.
You will be amazed at how good YOU will feel and you never know the huge impact it will have on the person you have bothered to make time for.