A cheery, optimistic, talented man hidden behind preconceptions
Walking through the line up of people waiting to receive a meal at the Doors Open on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, I looked through the crowd attempting to find someone who would be willing to talk to me and share their story. Thomas seemed like a friendly guy, eager and approachable so I thought I would see if he would be willing to answer a question or two. His looks did not deceive him, as he was willing and excited to talk to me.
At first glance, he seemed to be worn down, he fit into the crowd of people pretty well but one thing that stuck out to me about him was his spirit. He was happy, had a big smile on his face that was refreshing and hopeful. I wasn't too sure why he needed to be in the line up of a soup kitchen but whatever it was, it didn't wear him down. He had a cheerfulness to him that you could see just from saying hi to him.
Thomas is a student at UBC, studying humanities. His passion, he tells me is his work. Thomas is a film maker and enjoys capturing moments on film and sharing them with others. Thomas explained to me that he never really fit in. He didn't do well in school, he found that the structure of society was different to the way that he thinks. He was always an individual, more so than a member of a group.
Thomas shared insightful advice, that he learned throughout his life but, specifically from his parents who he said were the most influential people to him. When asked what the most important or impactful advice was that he received from his parents, he responded saying that lessons take a long time to learn, they can't be summed up in a single sentence or even a few. He did however, share that he strongly encourages the younger generation to stay in school, work hard and work hard now, don't put things off and say you'll do them later.
When I asked Thomas to speak towards himself, he said to try to not be dumb. Pretty obvious, I thought but he continued to go on about the importance of being friendly and kind to others regardless of how they appear, "Invest in people and you'll get a good return". These words really resonated with me. Often we go through life judging others before getting to know them. Like many others, at first glance, Thomas seemed much different than the person I soon began to get to know.