The poorest people I have met have been some of the richest in heart
I've always loved meeting new people and learning new things, but these experiences have completely exceeded my expectations and have been some of my most favorite of all. I knew I would learn a lot, meet some incredible people and hear some pretty captivating stories, but what I have experienced so far has really exceeded my expectations. Each and every person I have met whether they be homeless, hard on their luck or a volunteer have taught me so much and shared with me so many amazing stories that I am so excited to share with you all.
The very first thing that I noticed that seemed to be a common trend amongst all of the people I have had the pleasure to meet was their contagious smiles and kindness. Walking along the streets or driving in your car along East Hastings, it is so easy to judge and just walk by without acknowledging them. So often we all go through life judging books by their cover and not getting to know people for who they really are, but rather assuming we know all there is to know- or all that is worth knowing, just by first glance. My experiences have taught me that each and every person is unique and has a story to them that is worth knowing. Sitting with Grant on the side of the street, I was amazed at the amount of people that walked by ignoring him, not even giving him the time of day. To think that by following their preconceptions they missed out on having an interaction, short but sweet with this kind man who just wanted to see them smile. It was interesting sitting in his shoes to see how many people walk by and miss out on the special gifts in life. We are all so focused on our phones, getting to our next destinations and miss out on the simple gifts of life, like putting a smile on a strangers face. A little kindness goes a long way and you never know what something as simple as a smile can do to brighten up someones day. Talking with people who live on the streets or sit on the corners they often tell me that they go by unnoticed, that people continue on with their days and it seems as if they don't even see them. They often tell me that if they could tell society one thing it would be that all they want is a hello, something to show them that you know they are human too and even though they may be down on their luck they are still worth receiving the same human decency you would give anyone else.
Something I have been blessed to witness and that has held great impact on my life has been the extreme gratitude of the people I have met who are down on their luck and even the people and children of Oldonywas, Tanzania. The people who live on the streets or live in poverty in our community and the people of Oldonywas share many things in common. They are both much poorer than you and I. They don't live in a nice home, drive a fancy car or have the latest Iphone. They don't make a lot of money, or any at all and certainly do not enjoy the privileges and fancy things in life that most of us North Americans do. Yes, they share these many things in common, but their greatest similarity is that they don't let their "misfortune" as we like to call it, be a misfortune in their lives. The poorest people I have met have been some of the richest in heart. The people who are the most down on their luck are the highest in spirit. I have been forever changed by their compassion, their sincerity, their optimism and strength despite having what most of us may see as nothing at all. But, I think the most important lesson I have taken away from this so far is that even though yes they may live with nothing in material means they live in extreme wealth in their heart because it is filled with love. The children of Oldonywas and their parents and teachers were filled with so much love, they were so kind and so caring. They shared a love for life that is hard to come by here, one that I only really experienced again when I began this project. The people of Oldonywas, even though they sat in dusty classrooms filled with 120 children, walked 5km to get water four times a day and lived in single room houses made of mud, they had everything they needed because they had each other and a never ending, passionate love and gratitude for life.
I have experienced very similar compassion and kindness with the Vancouver Care project. Whether it be recovering drug addicts who took the time to help youth, residential school survivors who's smile lights up a room or a homeless man whose goal in life is to make others smile. I have been completely taken away by their caring nature and gratefulness for everything they have in life. Not once do you hear them complain, not once do you hear them wish they led a life they didn't. They make the best of what they have and do a pretty good job of it too. I have met people who live on the streets and don't know where there next meal is coming from yet their optimism and positivity is unwavering. Meeting these people have taught me a new definition of being grateful for everything that I have. I am grateful for all of my luxuries in life but I am now, more than ever thankful for the gift of life itself, every interaction I have, every smile, every laugh because I have learned through these people that we should be incredibly thankful for them. It is interesting because every person I have met through this project, not only did they never sing a tune of woes to me but also, they all consistently told me that life is what you make it and their goal is to make the best of it. So often we look to blame everyone and everything for what is going wrong in our lives or what we believe is missing without looking at the bigger picture and being grateful for what we do have and taking matters into our own hands.
I am so fortunate to have met the people I have, heard the stories I've heard and have the chance to be able to share them with all of you. I hope we can all learn from these people and take away from the lessons that they have taught us. Remember to always be kind, smile often, be grateful for everything we have and enjoy the little things that make life so great.