We arrive at the bridge at about 10pm. Tonight is a cold and windy evening. We walk down a long gutter until we are down underneath the bridge. Here, every night, many homeless people will sleep under this bridge. Our group of about 90 people, made up of pastors, teachers, make-up artists, salesmen, and many other people, will join them and do the same. We are raising money for an organisation who cares for the homeless in town called the Base Services. Leaving our comfortable beds and warm homes behind us, we have only a small pack with a swag in it.
The group is there not long until it is forced to move on because a fight has broken out and a group of homeless people have started a fire and warned our group to stay away. It is unsafe to stay there. We have to move on. We find our way to an old flour mill and set up our sleeping gear in the loading bay. It isn’t fully covered but it is better than being in the open. The ground is neither welcoming nor comforting. All through the night I toss and turn as I feel the cold cement underneath me. As morning comes closer I feel the cold dew inside my sleeping bag. Every minute gets colder and colder. No protection from pests, strangers, or the weather. By the time morning comes I sure am glad to get up, pack up and get off that street and hope to never end up there.
I learned a few things through this small experience. I realise that my cynicism of life and what it throws at me is irrelevant as I sit in front of my computer, in the warmth of my house with my wife sleeping in the room over and my fridge full of food. I had assurance of a home and comforts waiting for me. Many don’t have that. Whether by choice or by compulsion, many survive with nothing. So I now realise what I do have I will appreciate. When I forget this I will grab my bag again and sleep out in the cold weather to remember what I do have.
I also realised that it’s easy to think that people need to just try harder or pick up their act, but to empathise means to know what they are going through because of mutual experience. I’ve never slept on a street before. I’ve never been forced from my bed because I’m encroaching on someone else’s territory. I’ve never wondered if my bed will be a safe place for the night. Many do have to think about these things every night.
After the night out on the streets, I am tired because I didn’t really sleep, but my heart is full because I am thankful for the seat underneath me, the walls surrounding me and the opportunities before me. Rather than worrying about the things you don’t have, what do you already have that you can appreciate? How can you be actively involved in caring for and understanding the plight of the homeless?
If you are interested in donating to the Base Services or want to know more about them, follow the link below or find my donate page directly and give to this great cause: