A picture of despair. That’s how she appeared, …..
sat against the shop window, homeless and no more than three feet from a crowd of people queued at a bus stop. On a bitterly cold day in December she was ignored by everyone heading home. When I stopped to talk to her, from her bloody head, bruised face, cut lip and non-stop tears it was clear she had been attacked in the night.
I had been running a training programme in Nottingham I really did not enjoy, with a room full of delegates who certainly did not want to be there. At the end of what I felt was a miserable, wasted day I still had another two and a half hours drive to get home. I could not understand what the heck life was about. If it was just about money, I was definitely not being paid much and surely, I could be doing something more useful. My mood was rock bottom and I simply did not understand why I was in this situation.
Until I met her!
She made it all worthwhile. In an instant from being miserable and completely unfulfilled, I was grateful, immensely grateful for those eight hours of boredom in a place I did not want to be. This young girl gave me an opportunity to remember and recognise so many things about myself that I had forgotten or not acknowledged. It was not just a case that I was caught up in the hum drum and often drudgery of a working life. It was more than that. This was a chance to take responsibility for who I chose to be, to know something about my supposed values. It was a kick up the backside to re-evaluate the way I had come to think, unconsciously and by default. Our education and our culture tends to cause that to happen. I will never forget her, I could not, even if I wanted to.
I did not have much money myself at the time, but £60 – that’s all it took to get her into a refuge for three days. It probably costs more today but no doubt less than many of the single items we buy, indulge in or could do without.
There are many great causes, but no-one deserves to be alone, on the streets, with no family, often no food and no hope. It can happen too easily and too quickly, to both men and women.
“Trauma” is deeply distressing and is at the far end of the spectrum of unhappy experiences which can vary from simple challenges, problems, and issues to actual physical injuries. None of us are free from these types of experiences that leave us feeling “down”. I have no idea what became of that homeless young lady, and I hope she went on to live a happy life. What I was able to offer her was perhaps just a temporary respite. In return, unknown to her, she taught me a lesson that is invaluable and immutable. No matter how negative the experience may be, there is always another perspective, an unexpected and opposite view, not very obvious and usually, without time for reflection, remains hidden. I often forget of course, but what I have noticed is that when a situation is at its most challenging, “gratitude” surfaces and eliminates the stress, and the pressure of that moment.
That was her gift in return.
You don’t have to “practice” being grateful. In times of trouble just notice what you have, not what you don’t. It is impossible to be grateful and stressed.
“Trauma”, friend or foe? What you think is your choice – choose it.