Sunflower (no legal surname), Upper Main Arm
I feel compelled to write this because we as a community in Mullum can make a difference – a huge positive impact, so easily.
I am part of a team of three who have formed a self-funded group called The Grace Space. Part of what we have done for over 12 months now is walk beside those in our community who live on the fringe – rough sleepers, those in the mental health sector – anyone who needs a friend. As some of you know, we regularly share a fire and hot food, hot drinks, laughter and music once a fortnight with our fringe-dwelling brothers and sisters.
So the point of my letter? Y’all feeling the cold right now? Y’all appreciate that mug of hot soup, hot cocoa and warm gloves, warm soft beds, protection from the wind and rain, electricity? More than that though, most of us have beauty, love, dignity in our lives.
A tiny bit of my story: Until recently, I’ve spent the last 18 months homeless – sleeping rough – in a swag on the grass, under trees, on the railway platform, at churches when there’s no one around, in my car – wherever seemed safe and dry.
I have a tent now, a slice of paradise to live on, surrounded by the beauty of creation, birds, creatures and people who love and like me. I’m so happy I could bust!
Why did I end up homeless and sleeping rough? The fact is rotten luck, mental health issues, unexpected circumstances can be part of anyone’s life at any time. It has been me – it could be you or it could be your child. The fact that I now have somewhere beautiful to live and that the anguish in my soul is healing – does that somehow make me more deserving of dignity, compassion, kindness and beauty?
When I was sleeping rough it was the lack of beauty, the disdainful looks, feelings of invisibility, the loneliness – it was these things that ate into my spirit more than anything else. I can tell you from experience that one drop of kindness, one drop of dignity and compassion, one word or a smile from someone who cares makes so much difference. Sometimes the difference between life and death. I’m alive because there were a few who made a difference for me.
People on the fringe of our community are our brothers and sisters. I’ll say that again – they are our brothers and sisters. As we shop around Mullum we meet other brothers and sisters – some of them have jobs, they dress in beautiful clothes, they smell good, some are rich, they have cars, houses etc. Some have addictions, some live in torment and anguish, some are trapped in domestic violence, many have been or will be depressed at some stage of their lives, some have chronic mental health issues – undiagnosed. Most times we don’t get to see this part of their lives because it’s hidden. So somehow in our society, not seeing all this, we find it easy to offer them a smile, compassion, dignity, trust, kindness.
Fringe dwellers are real and raw – there is no hiding behind nice clothes and a trendy haircut, acrylic nails and a nice house. What you see is what you get. There is a deep sense of trust and goodness between them. But their sense of pain is real and raw too. Their tears are hot. The shame and anguish they carry rips at their hearts. The awareness of their addictions robs them of their dignity. The lack of beauty and compassion and kindness they feel often leaves them with not much to fall back on.
As a community here in Mullum we can easily make a huge difference. So easy. If we had 30 people/families who would each commit to making a pot of soup and providing a dozen or so bread rolls one night a month through this winter – it WOULD make a difference in more ways than we could imagine. I understand some people may feel hesitant, uncomfortable and even fearful around connecting with our brother and sister fringe-dwellers. If that’s you but you would still like to help, no problem. We will provide a drop-off and collection point. It’s not just about feeding their bodies (although they surely need this too) – it’s also about pouring some love into their spirits. It is so much easier for any of us to make positive and healthy choices for our lives when we know someone cares, when we feel visible, when even that one smile or small act of kindness penetrates our pain.
Y’all know what I’m saying – we all feel this, it’s common to us all. We can be contacted on [email protected] or on freecall 1300 846 649. This number is also our 24hr help line. If you, your family, your church or your organisation would like to be part of supporting our brothers and sisters who sleep rough, who dwell on the fringe – please call.