Things I Learned From Living in a Homeless Shelter. No. 2

In 2007, I spent several months living in a homeless shelter. It was one of my greatest experiences. One that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It was a gift actually. I had so much to learn and the universe didn’t let me down. It gave me the gift of “rock bottom.” Some of the knowledge I now possess, could not have been learned in any other way. I wasn’t unhappy in the shelter, I turned it into an adventure, and kept a great sense of humor. That is why you’ll find that some of my examples are rather humorous. Others though, are very serious.

Homeless Shelter Learns, No. 2:

I learned to be more compassionate – by fifty-fold. Yes, I suppose it was that significant. Well, I saw some serious heartache. Could you ever guess that some people are so lonely and hurting so badly that they sleep with detergent bottles for comfort, holding them near and dear like a baby? Probably not.

Shock, right? Who would think of this until they have seen it?

I used to watch her, as she slept, and wonder what it was, EXACTLY that made her hurt so much. It puzzled me and it made me want to cry. She was such a pretty woman, and I could see that inside she was beautiful, too, and yes, I could also see the internal battles raging, though I had no idea what started the war. I wanted to reach out, to ask a million questions, to give her a hug, but I knew better. She just had that look, “Stay away!” I respected the look, but I tried anyway to at least make eye contact, to offer a smile. A couple of times she did smile at me, a quick jerky smile with another look that said, “You look like a nice person, but I’m sorry, I’ve just been through too much and I can’t bring myself to trust you.” I understood. Somehow, I did.

What bothered me the most was to see her ridiculed. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but many shunned her, picked away at her mind, laughed behind her back, instead of trying to understand that she must have been in terrible pain. That made me want to scream. Oh yes, it did. I wanted to yell at those people and tell them to have some compassion, but I didn’t. I knew better than to do that, too. If you dared to raise your voice, you’d find yourself in some SERIOUS trouble. In fact, you could get kicked out of the shelter for acting out in any way. So, I just held it in, and I suppose the holding in was one of the main reasons why I had such a hard time dealing with anger when I finally left the shelter. I had no frustration tolerance. Well, I can’t blame me, really. It was hard to watch the pain.

Stay tuned for No. 3…

Forgive So You Can Move Forward

Recognize that no matter who hurt you as a child (or as an adult), you have what it takes to overcome that pain. You really do, please believe it – have that faith.

More good news: not only can you overcome, you can also go on to forgive those who caused the suffering. It just takes some time.

If you’re like me, you may have carried around horrific rage and angst – for years – and then dished it out to others, here and there, thinking it was justified, or quite possibly not even realizing that you were doing it.

If you’re like me, later you may have realized you made many an “oops” and after some time passed felt terrible regret.

Well, hey, there is some more good news: you CAN also forgive yourself. Again, it just takes time.

It’s not the mistakes that you or others have made that are inherently bad, it’s the part about not forgiving that is the most harmful (or bad, if you want to label it that).

You have to forgive or you can’t enjoy now, never mind move forward. You have to forgive or you truly have nothing at all to give! And wasn’t giving what you wanted for yourself in the first place? Didn’t you want someone to give to you – to care?

You can give to yourself now, instead of continuing to take away from yourself – and how? By working on overcoming and forgiving!

Peace and love to all on this fine Sunday evening.


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