There are times when your preconceptions are shattered and what you thought you know is completely blown wide open.
These times are good. They can be painful and difficult to deal with. But ultimately they are good because you start to see truth where before you were seeing what you thought was truth.
But it wasn’t.
I have a lot of preconceptions (that’s probably a whole other thing to get into) but on Thursday night I had my preconceptions of Homeless people changed dramatically.
When I saw a homeless person on the street I forgot that they are a person with a life and a history. They have a story. And I forget that they weren’t always homeless.
On Thursday night I went with two really close friends into Belfast because one of my friends wanted to give out food and blankets to homeless people.
We only met one homeless person.
His name is Sean.
We met him outside Botanic train Station.
Sean is nearly 40. He looks like he is a lot younger.
He has been homeless for almost 20 years. That’s nearly half his life.
His Father threw him out. He says hi to his Father sometimes in Belfast but his Father hardly acknowledges him.
He had been in the Hospital the night before. He discharged himself because he felt the Doctors were taking him for a ride.
His mother is dead and his Father wouldn’t even let him in the House for a cup of Tea after the funeral.
He has a nephew.
He has epilepsy.
He likes a drink.
He likes to smoke.
He needs assistance in getting up and sitting down.
He was given a new sleeping bag from a Mission but he doesn’t want it because he says he doesn’t need it.
He knows where to score drugs.
He once slept on a bench with about an inch of ice.
He likes Cheese and Ham sandwiches.
We learned a lot about Sean.
But mostly I think we learned that Sean is human. He isn’t inferior because he lives on the street. He just got a bad break in life. It could have been me. It could have been any of us.
He isn’t loved by his own Father. He has washed his hands of him.
So we decided to love Sean. We gave him some sandwiches, a couple of blankets and a couple of cigarettes.
I don’t know if we did much. But I think we listened. We let him tell his story. By doing that I think we gave him some dignity because he has a story. And if you have a story that means you are someone.
And Sean is someone.
Next time you are passing Botanic Station say hi to him.
Remind him that he is someone.