One thing I have discovered over many years of talking to people and connecting with random strangers is this: everyone is struggling irrespective of their station in life. This is true of the homeless person begging for spare change and the plutocrat who has enough money to buy islands but battles with his demons nonetheless. Pain is truly the universal language of mankind; from prince to pauper, we are all bound by the agonies that come with this thing called life.
This article is dedicated to the amazing woman who messaged me on Facebook to let me know how much I inspire her during her darkest moment she is currently undergoing. Liz, whose real name I’m omitting to protect her privacy, recently had a stroke and is undergoing physical therapy to regain functions most of us take for granted. In her message, Liz noted that life has been hard as she struggles to feed and clothe herself; what really wrenched my heart was when Liz told me she misses her smile because she has no control over the left side of her face. Wiping away tears between paragraphs, I cried as I responded to her to thank her for her kindness and her grace in the face of tormenting grief.
I told Kim what I am conveying to you now; though at times the onerous occasions we all endure seem pointless and unjust, there is meaning to be found in moments of duress once hardships pass. I don’t speak on these things from a place of theory but out of wisdom gained through mind bending tribulations. It was only five years ago that I was homeless and living at a community farm for the indigent at Harvest Farm in Wellington, Colorado. Gone were the days where I was raking in a six figure salary at Booz Allen Hamilton, all the sudden I found myself making $7.00 a week as a cook feeding fellow broken souls. During this most agonizing time of my life, I thought my life would never get better and I sank into a deep depression that extinguished whatever light I had left.
I stayed mired in the morass of poverty and loneliness for almost two years because I chose bitterness above gratitude. It took a most random act of kindness for me to course correct and discover the hopefulness I lost when I first became homeless. One day, after putting my clothes in the washer, I decided to go to my cot and read while waiting for the wash cycle to end. Unfortunately, I fell asleep and woke up a couple of hours later. Living with 68 other dispossessed men, I fully expected my clothes to be strewn all over the community laundry room floor. When I walked in, to my shock, someone had put my clothes in the drier than folded and neatly stacked them on the table in the corner.
#TBT to our Harvest Farm Fall Festival! Did you know Harvest Farm is a 100-acre farm and rehabilitation center in Wellington for up to 72 men seeking to break the cycle of addiction and homelessness? #SERVENoCo pic.twitter.com/1qCtd26hjs
— FortCollinsRescue (@FCRescueMission) February 6, 2020
This deed of altruism from someone who acted anonymously changed my life; from that moment on, I started to look at silver linings instead of gazing at grey clouds. With a change in demeanor came a shift of my luck; imbued with a sense of optimism I lost in 2015, I started writing again. One of the proses that I wrote titled “Memo to shE” attracted the attention of Bethlehem Bekele. A friend request led to chats in Facebook which led to a five hour conversation the first day we connected. Two years later, Bethlehem and I got married and we have a son who is the center of our universe. I went from dust to diamond because I believed in love instead of residing in grievance.
This is not to present some sort of fairytale ending nor am I trying to be the brown skinned version of Joel Osteen. I still have my challenges and there are traumas that I am still healing from. Distressing memories and hurtful wounds don’t disappear overnight; it takes years of conscience effort to unwind years of indoctrinations wrought by heartbreak. Yet, I take comfort in knowing that there is beauty in all messy developments. Life is a rose; we must appreciate the thorns as much as we value the petals. Though we all want happiness, what truly gives us meaning and purpose are the lessons we learn during our crucibles.
In this age of a pandemic, social distancing, lockdowns and financial uncertainties, it can be easy to give our hands to despondency and open our souls to melancholia in the process. The decisions we make daily can either renew optimism or will maroon us on the islands of desolation. Though it is hard in the moments we are being afflicted by calamity, we must find the wherewithal to seek substance instead of inhaling only bad news. A single person cannot change the world but a single act of resiliency twinned with compassion can change you and cascade to others in your vicinity; the latter is how we can transform society and deliver justice for humanity.
To Liz, and everyone else reading this—including the author—it is my hope and my prayer that you do not let present circumstances define and confine your spirits. You are greater than your troubles; in time the stresses you are going through will become your testimony. But no need to think of the future; just focus on the present and find a reason, any reason, to be thankful. Gratitude is a panacea that alleviates ennui; if you change your perspective and seek thankfulness, in time your fortunes will transform. We might never regain what we lost and we might never be made whole, yet in loss arrives meaning we have been searching for all our lives. #Note2Strugglers Click To Tweet
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ~ Khalil Gibran
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