Friday, October 17, 2014

What good conversation can do for the soul

Trying to explain where I live here in Philadelphia to people seems to be more difficult than expected so most of the time I just tell people I live at St. Augustine's church, because for all intents and purposes, I do. The building my apartment is in is owned by the church which is literally right next door(a huge motivator to go to church every week by the way!) I also live on the second floor because the first floor is home to Women of Hope, which is an assisted living facility for adult women struggling with homelessness and mental illness. 

There are a handful of women I see each day as I leave for work or come home for the day. Often they are talking with each other and/or smoking a cigarette. Many of the women smile and wave to me, and I of course return the wave. They come to church and the meals the church provides on Sundays where we again exchange a smile and a wave. Today was a little different. I was walking to my bus stop for work and saw one of the women who is always quick to share a smile waiting for the same bus. She came up to me, so incredibly excited to share with me that she got a job. After a congratulatory hug, our bus came and we continued to chat on the bus. I learned so much about Ms. Elizabeth in the 25 minute ride we shared together-we have moved passed just a friendly wave. 

Ms. Elizabeth shared with me that after her husband died, she went through a nervous breakdown which led to her homelessness. She shared what park she lived in and that she never begged for money. She shared with me that when she became homeless she bought a Bible, continued to pray and ask others for prayer. She insisted on getting a hand up in this world, not a hand out. Ms. Elizabeth shared how many people she has been blessed to have in her life. She shared that so many people struggling with homelessness and mental illness don't take the difficult steps to get better and rely on the hand outs she tried so hard to avoid. 

In the 25 minutes I spoke with Ms. Elizabeth it became evident that she just wanted someone to share in her happiness. She didn't want pity for her hard life but wanted to share in the joy of answered prayers. She is an incredible reminder that a hard life is no reason to give up on God. Her faith stays constant in any situation and the obstacles make the reward that much sweeter. 

Right before her stop she told me her mother always said everyone just needs someone to talk to. No one lives in this world by themselves. Her mother was so right. It can be so easy to go through life thinking no one understands what you are going through. It can be so easy to isolate ourselves from people who are different from us but SO much can be learned by simply talking. Talking and listening to a relative stranger. Ms. Elizabeth is no longer a stranger, she is a source of inspiration. I cannot wait to see her, smile and wave and ask her how her job is. We should all take after her belief in getting a hand up in life not a hand out.

Thank you, Ms. Elizabeth, for sharing. 

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