Often, I think we are desensitized to how difficult it is to be homeless – to have very little control over our day to day life. We take for granted that we get to pick what shirt to wear, when to take a shower, when to have our first cup of coffee. Recently, this became apparent to me.
Yesterday, I ran into this homeless guy I have been friends with for about 10 years. I first met him when he offered to help me paint a house I was working on, in what people commonly refer to as “the ghetto.” While his painting services were suboptimal, we nonetheless stayed acquaintances – at first, not by my choice. Alas, ten years later, I kind of like running into him randomly and hearing about how he’s doing. It makes Akron feel like home.
I was coming out of Angel Falls coffee after working most of the afternoon there and he saw me. He quickly launched into telling me how he is in remission from cancer – the last time I ran into him, he thought he was going to die. He also mentioned he was off of drugs – another positive. Then, he mentioned that he is going to get disability next month. With pride, he said, “I am going to get my own place, my own clothes…”
I thought about that for about 24 hours, and it hit me. This is a big deal. When you have spent so much time on the street with so little control over your own life, it must feel good to be able to buy a shirt that “you” want – to decide where “you” are going to live.
This led me to a secondary realization – it takes tremendous amount of willpower to go on living when you have no control over anything. The dream of getting his disability next month really seemed to inspire him to keep going and get to the next step. We are all just trying to survive to make it to the next step…