In the taxi ride on the way to the Siloam Mission the other day, the conversation with the taxi driver went something like this...
DRIVER: What is this building that you're going to? Whenever I drive by, I always
see a lot of people standing outside of it?
ME: It's a homeless shelter, where some can get a place to sleep, and where many others can get meals, as well as access to some really basic things we all need, like a
mailing address, a phone, doctor and dental care, a haircut, clothing and personal hygiene items, spiritual support, job search help, and lots of other services, most of which are provided by volunteers.
DRIVER: If they
can all stand around, why can't they work?
ME: Some of them actually do work, but either can't get a steady, full time job, or can't make enough to completely support themselves or their family, or can't get enough momentum
to get themselves back on their feet. Many have difficulty getting jobs because they are affected by all sorts of physical and mental conditions, of which some are obvious, and many are not. And all of them, no matter what their condition, are just human beings,
exactly like you and me. They've often come into a lot of hardships in their lives and are simply doing the very best they can to handle it each day.
DRIVER: What are you going there for?
I work as a volunteer there too, doing workshops about thinking and how it affects us. You know when you have a bad day, and you feel bad about yourself, and you get caught up in your negative thinking for a while? You get depressed, frustrated, you can't
see things clearly, and you tend to make bad decisions? But eventually, somehow your thinking gets clear, and you feel better, and you get back to living your life?
DRIVER: Yes, I get that.
Well, everyone at the homeless shelter has the same type of experience that we do. They have a bad day, they feel like crap, and just like you and me, they get caught up in their negative thinking about their circumstances, themselves, other people, and the
world. Fortunately, for you and me, our thinking eventually gets clear, which gives us the energy to get back into life. And unfortunately, for many of them, they've just spent so much time feeling bad, that they just can't see through the fog of their thinking.
Their experience of life often looks so bad to them that they tend to feel much less hope and possiblity than we do. They're not only dealing with a likely considerably greater number of challenging circumstances, but they are often also completely lost in
their thinking about it.
DRIVER: So what can we do about them?
ME: The only thing we can really do is love them. There's something about being able to see underneath their appearance
and their behaviour, and into our common humanity, that has the ability of waking them up from the fog of their thinking, lessen their suffering, and for a moment at least, give them some hope.
DRIVER: Love is very powerful.
ME: Yes it is.
When I paid for the taxi ride, the driver wouldn't let me give him a tip. He said it was already enough that I was doing volunteer work and he didn't want to take any more. In another taxi
ride a few weeks ago, the driver spontaneously gave me a winter coat that he had in his car, to give to the mission.
I don't always end up chatting with each taxi driver, but when we do end up talking about the mission, I always see their
human compassion and better nature rise in some way. It's always there within all of us. In fact, it's actually what we're made of, except for the all too frequent moments when we happen to be caught up in the craziness of our thinking. And that goes for me
and you and all the homeless as well.