March 06, 2015 - an unexpected double update!
Spending the day filming for the documentary ‘Not A Stranger’ yesterday was a lot of fun. It’s also a unique kind of exhausting. This afternoon I was wrestling with the fact that I has said I’d write a story today. I had a couple of meetings and then all I really wanted to do was come home, eat and watch trash television. As happens, with no surprise, the universe stepped in to offer a viable solution.
I see Jessica, from Day 46 last year around the neighbourhood from time to time. (*Fact Check - see link below.) She’s a bit of a chameleon, often changing her hair colour. We always say hello and when time permits, we’ve stopped to have quick conversations. Today, I was about to cross the street when I saw Jessica walking toward me, with a new hair colour. I was happy that I recognized her, despite the new look. We had a nice hug, and chatted for a bit. I took the opportunity to thank Jessica for continuing to follow the project. She also often acknowledges the tweets I post about the stories I collect.
“I love what you’re doing,” she told me.
“I also appreciate how open and honest you are about your own story. It’s been a great inspiration for me, personally.” I asked Jessica if she would mind sharing with me in what way she’s felt inspired by the stories of others.
“I was coming to terms with my own personal health issues. I had taken some time off work and was feeling isolated and alone. Reading about how you’re living with depression was an inspiration. Your story gave me a sense of connectedness. I knew I wasn’t alone. It helped me to feel more comfortable with my own situation,” Jessica told me. We talked a bit more about our own challenges with personal situations and growth. The importance of connectivity, community and getting past stigma are all of importance.
I asked Jessica if I could take a photo of us and use the chat we had as an update for today’s post. Clearly she agreed, as evidenced by our selfie! It was the perfect chance encounter. It gave me another great story to post. It also gave me a nice boost and validation. Proof that connections with others, even those who were once strangers, can have a profound affect on all involved.
I got some groceries and was kind of writing today's post in my head, as I headed home. I looked up and saw a man coming towards me, pushing a shopping buggy loaded with empty bottles and cans. I couldn’t see the man's face because the sun was shining in my eyes. We got closer, and I saw the man wave, and I realized it was Don who I met on Day 165, last year. I’ve written a couple of updates about Don already. One was back in December when I was the first person to talk with him moments after he found out his brother had passed away. I wrote another update a few weeks ago, when I next saw Don. At that time, he had just returned from spending a month with his family in Edmonton. He had decided to go spend some time with his family, after his brother’s death.
I see Don around on a semi-regular basis. Today he told me that he’s decided to move back to Edmonton, permanently. He asked if I was in a hurry or if I could sit down and talk with him; he had something he wanted to share with me. We sat down on a nearby bench and Don pulled a plastic bag from his coat pocket. We spent the next ten minutes looking at a collection of photographs of his very large family. Don’s sister had given him copies of the family's group photos. He told me everyone’s name and how they were related. Don comes from a large family with sisters, brothers, in-laws and plenty of nieces and nephews.
It was very clear just how proud he is of his family, and how happy he is to have made that trip home.
“I’m sixty-five now. I want to spend time with my family, enjoy them and re-connect. I don’t want the next time they see me to be in a cedar box. I’m just getting some things taken care of, and I hope to be back in Edmonton by the end of the month,” he said.
“When I was there last month, they were all so supportive. It really blew my mind. My kids, my sisters, even my (adult) nieces were telling me I could stay with them. My daughter told me I didn't have to worry about not having a job. My sister told me I don’t need any money. They just want me home. No judgements.”
Don is homeless, lives on the streets, and sleeps outside.
“I’ve thought about it for a while now. I knew I wanted to move to Edmonton when I was on the bus coming back to Vancouver last month. I have a girlfriend here. I just had to figure out how I was going to tell her. She’s a beautiful woman and I enjoy the time we’ve spent together. But this is something I need to do for me. She has a home and a job, but she could have that in Edmonton too, if she wanted," he said.
"She asked me to stay over at her place the other night. I told her that if I didn’t go to Edmonton, I’d end up resenting her for my own decisions. I’ve been here in Vancouver for about twenty years. I’m old enough now to make the decision all by myself, for myself. It’s what I have to do.”
“I’ll see you again, before I take off,” he said. I wanted to make sure Don knew I was grateful for the friendship we have developed over the past months. We hugged and shook hands. He waved goodbye. As I walked home, I realized that even though I only ever run into Don by chance, knowing I soon won’t run into him anymore, I felt a twinge of sadness. In my own selfish way; sad for me, but much happier for Don. And his family. #notastranger
*Fact Check - Jessica - http://on.fb.me/1EyBjzb