My last blog entry was made 2 days into my 6 week placement at the Whitechapel Centre (http://www.whitechapelcentre.co.uk/). I’m now 2 days away from completing this placement and I wish I knew where the time went!
Here’s a summary of what I’ve learnt and experienced during these 6 weeks:
Nobody wants to be invisible
Many persons, who’ve lived on the street for an extended period, feel as if they are invisible and unwanted by society. After interacting with clients, I became aware that although money, food and accommodation were priorities, respect was what they ultimately wanted from me and everyone else. Nobody wanted to be pitied but to be treated normally. In chatting with one of the guys they mentioned that even though people sometimes gave them money it was usually casually thrown to them and they felt as if they were a dog and being thrown a bone. That made a deep impression on me. They hate being ignored. I’ve made a mental note to remember to simply say I have no money and so at least acknowledge that the person begging exists.
Everyone has a story
I don’t believe that anyone wants to be homeless. I fell into the trap of quickly mentally judging some of the clients after hearing snippets of their life story, but I’ve come to appreciate that I don’t know the full story. It’s known to God alone. The quote “There, but for the grace of God, I go” comes to mind and has made me humble and grateful that I’ve always had food and shelter.
Asking for help is not a sign of incompetence
I don’t think that any human being is fully self-reliant and super tough although we may perceive ourselves as such. In working with those facing alcohol and drug addictions, I sense that it takes tremendous courage and strength to admit that they have a problem and ask for help. I’ve been inspired by the staff at the Centre who support people facing difficulties in sorting out their affairs. The staff doesn’t try to jump in like heroes and make all the problems disappear, but the goal is to enable those affected to become independent once again and not reliant on the support workers. I’ve noted that many times these people feel abandoned by friends and family, and its just a little support and encouragement that they need to set them on the right track again. Especially during Lent, I’m reminded that patience and love with myself and others are necessary ingredients for breaking any bad habits.
I should also let you know that I’ve been joined by a 2nd year novice (Jozef Székely) from the Slovak Republic (Slovakia). The two Jesuits in the Community (Ken Vance and Adrian Howell) have been very welcoming and friendly to us. Ken has been an excellent tour guide of Liverpool.
I’m leaving this placement with the knowledge that I need God, and the world needs God. I don’t think I can solve the world’s problems on my own, and I now appreciate how the Society of Jesus is structured. We are not all off in our corner trying to help in our own ways, but we work together supporting each other. I can’t do this all on my own, No, I know, I’m no Superman. Have a great week!