We ran into Rickie outside of the laundromat this week and we asked how he has been since last winter when we had first met. He shook his head and said it's been a rough year, but he was surviving. He talked about the demons of life never being too far behind for him. We asked him what he planned to do, and he said, “It’s simple!” I am going to try to contact my Mama and let her know I am still kicking.” He knew she would lift his spirits like no one else can, and it had been too long since he called and he knew she would be worried. He asked if my phone had minutes that I could spare, and it did - so we dialed the long distance number he had memorized and put her on speaker right then and there. We both got to hear her sweet excitement over receiving the call and we smiled. It was special to feel the love of a worried Mother having her prayers answered that her son was still alive and safe. They caught up quickly on latest news of other family members, she gave thanks for the call and sent her love and prayers to him through the cellular waves and he smiled and sent his love back to her, too. And just like that, everyone in this family had hope again.
Over and over again we see that one moment of disconnection with family, with loved ones, with anyone that is part of our support system, can totally separate us and leave us feeling even more lost, alone, and hopeless. So many times one phone call and just the sound of their voice can wipe away all that happened to separate each other in the first place. We are constantly urging people to think about forgiveness and that we all need people in our lives. We all function better when we are loved and feeling connected.
~ Adam & Ren
They are unhoused neighbors, but they are not the enemy. Frances is a kind and compassionate veteran who is here in Vancouver with her family, Keaton and Tessie. They are strong, capable, and loving people who are just going through some rough circumstances as they get relocated here from a worse environment. We had a seriously great time getting to know these folks. They are working hard nights canning to keep gas in the vehicle and make ends meet, while they work through the appointments during the day that will bring them closer to housing stability. And then during the day they try to find a few hours of sleep in a shady spot to escape the summer heat wave and be ready to work again in the cooler nights. We asked them how everyone including the dog was doing with this heat lately, and they said mostly fine except for “this one lady” who is a nearby resident and comes over to the park to harass them and regularly threatens to call the police while they try to get some rest in the heat of the afternoon. They all try to take her threats with a shrug of their shoulder as they share the story, but it obviously bothers Frances. It bothers her that after she served this country, she is now being put into danger by normal people who are just assuming they are up to no good, when they are just trying to find a quiet shady spot to rest before they have to go back to work in the evenings.
We pay attention to Facebook, NextDoor and other apps where a lot of concerned people share their opinions and bullying comments and we want to say, "People, please STOP being afraid and judgemental!" If you are concerned about parks, parking lots, trash cans and what people are doing in them. Have some compassionate curiosity and go speak to these people as neighbors. Don’t just go and take pictures of the worst of it and then put your assumptions and accusations out there to feed into negativity against everyone. Give people the possible good credit they deserve before you pass judgement on the circumstances. It could be possible that while you are thinking that you are helping the community, in reality you could be harassing a military veteran and her family. Our neighbors and veterans deserve a better response when they are working on navigating the limited options they have in hard times. We all are a part of creating that community as we engage each other in our shared spaces. We can choose to say hello or how can I help instead of giving menacing looks or threats. We can choose to do better for everyone, including Frances and her family.
~ Adam & Ren
Ricky is one of those guys that you somehow can’t help but like. He laughs easy, has a kind word for everyone and is the type of guy who would give you the shirt off his back if you asked for it - unfortunately sometimes that kindness gets him in trouble while living on the streets. I can’t tell you how many times his kindness has led Ricky into having to replace his phone. He blames no one but himself every time. He gets back up, dusts himself off and starts over again. His strength in resilience is amazing and beautiful. Ricky shared with us that he is a brave survivor of a suicide attempt and this was the reason for his last round with homelessness. He says that it was his last attempt ever and, “Being homeless sucks. That is all I can say about it. It just sucks.”
In the time that we have known him, the positive constants for Ricky has been his love for drawing and playing music. His fascination with the piano at the REACH Center has in his own words “saved his life”. He will be the first to tell you that he can’t play it, but that doesn’t stop him from finding peaceful Zen moments for himself while beautifully plinking away at it. We are grateful to know Ricky. He is an inspiration with his positive attitude and constant wise cracks that keep us smiling. Ricky has been working hard on getting his own place and it sounds like it is coming together for him finally. So, we want to tell him that we hope to see less of him soon, you know, in that wise-crack good sort of way! Ricky, we are so proud of you! May your new place be comfortable and full of the peaceful music and good vibes you have brought around the Center’s piano. Way to persevere!
~ Adam & Ren