We all want to be seen as someone who has truly made a difference with the time we have been given, to leave a better imprint on this world than the day we entered it, to be known as more than merely ordinary.
This morning Cindy Small, our Drop-in Center Educator, came to me brushing tears from her eyes after listening to Marley’s podcast. I knew that Marley’s story was the most powerful one yet, but it wasn’t until I probed further into Cindy’s reflections that I discovered what was truly at the root of the self-reflection that her story had left me with.
I asked Cindy, “What is it about Marley’s podcast that made you react so emotionally?”
Without missing a beat she responded, “I realized that I can definitely do more. I can stop the car instead of driving by. If I don’t have anything to give I can say, ‘Are you okay?’ Or ‘How are you?’ I can acknowledge people and show them kindness. Marley probably has often wondered, ‘Does no one see me? Does no one care?’ She did not choose the life that she was born into, and she didn’t have the coping skills to navigate the situations that she was thrown into - none of us would - and here we are putting another nail in her coffin. Is that who we want to continue to be as a society, is that who I want to be as a person? We need to move away from our tendency to see homelessness as a character flaw and take action - and showing some simple kindness is a good place to start.”
Cindy continued, “It can be overwhelming sometimes and we wonder how we could ever make a difference, but we forget that people can live off of a single moment for a long time. We have all had pivotal moments in our life that we will never forget, that change us. Those are the lifelines that we cling to in our most desperate moments. We need to start throwing more lifelines out there for people to hold onto. We don’t have to solve it all, we only need to be willing to put ourselves out there a little bit. All that emotion that we are holding and feeling is not enough, we need to let it out and take action! Because it is our actions that will make a difference, not our feelings. And remember how many of us are one paycheck, one trauma, away from being in the same situation.”
Cindy’s last words made me think of my own circumstances. I have never been homeless, but I come very close to it at different times in my life. I had a flashback of sleeping on the floor on an air mattress with my son for three months when my marriage fell apart. Last week I heard a woman’s story that was left homeless after losing everything she owned in a fire. Yesterday I spoke with a woman who’s husband, and sole provider of her family, had passed away unexpectedly at twenty-two. “If I hadn’t had a supportive family I would have been in the same situation. I wouldn’t have had anyplace to go.”
We all have our stories and have found ourselves in challenging circumstances. Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? How many paychecks are you away from being homeless? Are you one trauma away from being without a place to live?
In Marley’s podcast she states, “I can’t plan for the future. How could I when I’m just trying to get through each moment?” However Marley also talks about the legacy that she wants to leave behind and the ways that she wants to change her narrative. She has a strong desire to help others, to take action.
I was touched by her emotional story, but after speaking with Cindy I realized that was the question that I couldn’t shake - or maybe that I was having difficulties finding the courage to answer honestly. What legacy will I leave behind? Have I made an impact? Have I taken enough action?
After some difficult self-reflection I was finally able to answer that question. I do believe that I am a good person, but there was no denying I felt similar to Cindy. I could do more. It is easier to drive by, to turn my head, to go about my life without any disruptions - but I don’t want to be the person that chooses to look the other way. Being a “good person” just isn’t enough. I need to take action.
After listening to Marley’s podcast I have received a lot of questions wondering how they can help. People want to take action, but what action can you take?
S.T.E.P. by S.T.E.P., Inc. and other community organizations have volunteer opportunities, fundraising events, community coalitions. The process of helping and making a difference is ever-changing, and we will be sending out information as more community initiatives are developed. Whether you want to volunteer, donate, participate in community events, initiate coalitions, sign up for our newsletter to be notified how you can involve yourself, support our community, and make a difference.
What is the legacy that you will leave behind?
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