(It’s about 3AM)
I haven’t been off of the streets a full 24 hours yet, but for some reason I miss them (yes, the streets). Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Only thing is…I’m not making it up.
While out there, I felt safe, embraced, a sense of community, and protected.
In fact, If I can be completely transparent–being among many of my homeless friends who started to consider me as family caused me to do something I have not been able to do in years–TRUST (If you have been through hell relationally, you can relate).
I found it extremely easy to let my guard down without being reserved, having fear, being introverted, or even defensive.
The first day I arrived, I did not have anything: No blankets. No toothpaste. No jacket. No brush. Not change of clothes. No money. No direction. Nothing. The only thing I did have was my cell for protection (and storytelling). You can read my posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
However, my homeless friends provided me with everything! When I walked up on the hill at tent-city (under I-20 75/85), I was approached by three brothers and a sister.
“I’m here to stay with you all, and I don’t have anything. I want to experience what you experience and share with the world on your behalf. I want to give you a voice…“ I said.
Immediately, I was greeted, given instructions, and each of my homeless friends rallied together supplies so I would make it through the nights of 30 & 40 degree weather. They gave me a blankets, socks, food, and sat and talked with me for hours about how they ended up under the bridge.
We shed tears, laughed, sang, and talked about God all day and most of the night. They showed me the ropes (how to live, where to go, and what to do) Immediately, my walls came down. I began to trust! Why? Here’s three quick reasons
1) They accepted me as their family. Not only did my homeless friends help me to survive, they called me “family,” and displayed it with their actions. I have had relationships in “regular” society for years, and have not heard those words or experienced that type of genuine love in years.
2) They opened up their community to me. I have been in affluent spaces, in diverse spaces, in uppity spaces, but the community I felt among them was like none other. It was a closeness that can’t be described with words. They shared everything they had with me (and they had nothing). Without them, I wouldn’t have completed my journey…
3) They opened up to me. They shared their most personal stories with me, talked about their faith in God, and listened to many stories of mine. It was the best experience. Sometimes, not only is it hard to get people to open up in normal society, but it is even more difficult to get people to listen to you. They did both…
Also, they shared, “no minister, or person has ever dared to wear our shoes and live with us… We have people come and leave all the time, but not stay and experience….Because you are doing this…you have our respect.” they all said.
I don’t know why it was so easy to believe them and trust them, but it was… And, not only did they keep their word–they protected/encouraged me until I made it through.
The first day it rained, was cold, and I survived with resources given to me by my homeless friends. I kept thinking to myself,
“This is the part of society that is looked at strange, but has the most heart. I have met people with “means” in normal society with much status, but would not sacrifice the way they did (and they have nothing).”
Not only were my stereotypes destroyed, but I was educated, had on their shoes, and my heart broke with even more compassion for our brothers and sisters without homes in Atlanta (and the nation).
I wish I could go back and rescue many of the people who I established relationships with…
I wish I could give some of them jobs…
I wish I could take them off of the streets and give many of them second chances…
I wish I had an army of people who would unite with #lovebeyondwalls to make this happen…
From the first day forward (for the rest of my life), I made a declaration and promise to God to raise tons and tons and tons and tons of awareness to help my “new” family and other homeless people in this country. That’s why I am going to go hard to build this organization. There are many social ills plaguing our society, and #lovebeyondwalls is needed in those places.
The first day, not only did I encourage them, but they changed me. They cause me to learn how to trust again!!!!
Below are a few pictures of items that were given to me the first night I slept under the bridge: