She was rather tiny. In her 30’s, blond, beautiful, cute. But she seemed a bit lost… Our initial thoughts may sound like: “Oh, come on… She is a drug addict. What did she expect? It was her choice. She wants to live on the streets…. And if she didn’t, she would have entered a rehab programme…”
But please, let go of your prejudice, and listen to what she has to say…
“Maria” comes from Corfu, but she has not visited her island in years. It’s not that she doesn’t want to, but her family knows nothing about her current life. Yes, of course she has a family… The house is filled with her absence and the pain of two parents waiting for their daughter’s return, hoping that she is ok.
So what happened?
Few personal problems, trusting the wrong person, ending up vulnerable and disillusioned. All of these led to her drug use. And now, alone during the holidays, spending her days on the streets, not being able to distinguish one day from another… She didn’t ask for anything. We were the ones to approach her. She had neither a sleeping bag, nor warm clothes. We offered her what she needed. Her face changed, we saw a big smile coming up. “Maria’s” expression was all we needed to understand that she had accepted us and that a new relationship of trust had just started.
We met her many more times during our “Merry Streetmas” campaign. She was more relaxed and approachable. She was becoming happier… The future lies ahead of her… and we will be there when she is ready to take the necessary steps towards “light”…
“Athina” was there. She was actually solving mathematical equations. She is a smart girl but she is a drug addict. Before we rush into judging her, let’s take some time to consider the events of her life.
She grew up in a family with an alcoholic father. Her mother abandoned him, trying to make a living working at bars and nightclubs. “Athina” grew up literally by herself. She never received any love, care or compassion. She was blaming her father for years. When she finally went to find him, she couldn’t bear it and she left him again. Her father is now in a mental institution. “Athina” is left alone to face her guilt, as well as her mother’s bad behavior. The unbearable weight of what would have been different if “Athina” hadn’t left her father and had stayed on. Her only mistake was that she did not choose the family she was born into.
She talked to us. Eventually she opened up and during an emotional outburst, as she was sobbing, she put her arms around us. She asked us to meet her again…the journey begins…
Mr “Aris” seemed exhausted. In his nineties, with a kind, serene face and a slow walk. He could be anyone’s grandfather. I could easily imagine him, sitting by the fireplace during a cold winter night, telling us stories …
Unfortunately, the reality is far from such depiction. Mr. “Aris” lives in a shelter with no comforts nor luxuries. Just a roof above his head and a bathroom. He has to cater for everything else. Whenever he was around, he always carried a big smile and he never asked for anything.
We started to chat with him over a hot cup of tea… warming him up with a cosy chat and genuine interest. He then asked hesitantly for some things. He didn’t want anything special, just a bar of soap for his personal hygiene and some clothes. When we returned to the shelter along with his goodies, we saw this old man turning into a child. His joy was enough to fill our hearts.
Before you walk by, Think.
Before you act, Ask