You know the kind - where you walk away thinking "has god, or the universe | source | spirit, just materialised to give me a steer?" To the point where you think - "if I look round, will that person not even be there, and in fact was never even there in the first place, just a miraculous mirage with a message?"
I’d walked out of a supermarket and there was a guy begging at the door.
Truthfully I’d seen him as I walked towards the shop and had my usual twinge of angst - am I meant to give money to beggars? Does the momentary monitory exchange help or hinder that person?
I’ve worked in homelessness services and done research into the topic for many years and I still don’t know if you’re meant to give money to homeless people.
I’ve even been homeless and I still don’t know.
I decided I’d give the guy some money.
It was bitterly cold and I conjured up a romantic image of him clutching a cup of hot tea with his hands in finger-less gloves as he huddled round a fire blazing out of an old oil drum with his tribe of fellow free-spirits, sharing tall stories of life on the streets.
From the smell of him and my own memories, I knew it was more likely funds for a quite moment of paranoid chemical solace alone in some hidden part of a deserted concrete desert.
I guess romance is ultimately subjective.
I gave him less than I pay for daily coffee - and these days I’m a two-plus-a-day consumer.
He looked up with genuine astonishment - ‘for real bro?’ I smiled and said yes, and he insisted on telling me a story.
I stood with him as he gave the most beautiful rendition of the Footprints poem, the tears welling and rolling down my cheeks as he crescendo’d to the resolution - that during our times of trial and suffering, when we see only one set of footprints, it is then that god, or the universe | source | spirit carries us.
My 'tears + snot' journey home was not about that guy.
He has his path.
That hot squelchy mess was for my own path, and how close I came to being ’that guy’.
I had enough of the contributing factors of substance abuse, diagnosis of a severe mental disorder and forced hospital treatment in my 20s to put me on a fast track to destitution. And amongst the near-miss survivor guilt there was also immense gratitude for the life I have.
Because along with those contributing factors, I also had enough protective factors including family and friends that love me and an education that society rewards with jobs, resources and an instilled belief in personal power.
That and my favourable demographics of being white, male and heterosexual - change one or more of those and they switch from being protective factors to contributing to further stigma and discrimination.
Earlier in the day I’d taken a moment to appreciate this tree. Beyond its statuesque magnificence I quietly reflected on it’s branches as they meandered into the sky in search of sunlight.
Take a look for a moment yourself . . .
. . . do you notice how they wander, sometimes straying from a straight path?
Take a look again.
Sometimes they even grow back on themselves, seemingly away from the nourishment they seek.
The beauty of this tree is enhanced rather than diminished by it’s deviations, and an appreciation of it’s totality eclipses the ebb and flow of it’s many journeys.
Rather than insult you with the obvious analogy to our lives, I want to go further and sow the seed that work - the things we do every day to put food on the table and a roof over our heads - is, for many of us, more than ‘just work’. I believe that most jobs or occupational activities are primarily about improving life. Once love, food and shelter are secured, we usually set about making the world a better place.
My own version of this is a desire to create ways in which people can learn to accept themselves and others whilst aspiring to be the best they can be individually and collectively.
If I had a magic wand, I’d like to abracadabra us all into a life of joy and fulfilment, where life’s challenges and opportunities are embraced within and amongst us. Where we can gaze upon our personal and shared deviations with tenderness and a sense of wonder. A place where a chance encounter with the person you might have been can fill you with enough love and gratitude that it overflows and spills out of your eyes.
Of course I do have a magic wand - we all do.
We are magic wands.
If you're ready to wave your magic wand, let's talk.