Reprinted from "Housing and Homelessness" issue of Visions Journal, 2007, 4 (1), pp. 24-25
My story isn't what you might call a "good news" story. Yet, it has elements of very good news.
My 40-year-old son is homeless. I hadn't seen him for several years, but last August his picture was on the front page of the North Shore Outlook, a community newspaper serving North and West Vancouver. He was the only one, out of a group of homeless people, who consented to being interviewed for an article.
I was able to send Rick* an e-mail because of this article. I told him how much I love him. I told him I remember his strong sensitivity and compassion for others. This value shone through when he was a child, and it continues.
During the past winter, Rick was fortunate to have a roof over his head, and we were able to talk on the phone. He expressed interest in making significant changes in his life, so my daughter and I quickly gathered information about detox and treatment centres and offered support and assistance. However, Rick chose not to go this route. Again.
One evening shortly after Christmas, Rick and I had a phone conversation that I will long remember. There was nothing profound about our conversation, except that both of us stayed in the present moment - no talk about past sorrows or future hopes. We remembered little things and fun times, and we laughed a lot. He thanked me for the Christmas package with socks, a blanket and home-baked cookies - and he told me how he'd shared the package with his friends. This phone call was one delightful piece of our time in communication.
I've lost track of Rick again; the cell phone he was able to use is no longer available. However, throughout that time of being in touch, I was transformed. I realized that the bottom line is: I love him regardless of what choices he makes. I hold him in my heart and in my prayers - and at the same time I "let go." I have my life to live.
I've learned not to feel responsible for his situation. I no longer spend a lot of energy and time worrying about him. Rick calls himself a survivor - and that he is, for better and for worse. If he chooses to make changes, he knows where to go and who to ask. If he wants family, he knows where to find us.
I do live with hope - but I don't hope for a prescribed outcome. I live with the love and support of family and friends. I am familiar with the support services that are in the community and know how to access them. I volunteer at the Canadian Mental Health Association in order to give back some of what I receive.
I also live with gratitude that Rick is part of my life, whether or not we're directly in touch with each other. And I am ever grateful that Rick's children are part of our lives. They are well cared for in a loving home. We are preparing now for their summer visit, which is bound to be fun and high energy. I'm up for that!
About the author
Martha is retired and lives in Salmon Arm with her husband and two dogs. She has just completed six years on the board of CMHA Salmon Arm.