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MEETING AN OLDIE IS NOT SO PAINFUL. LINGER AND GIVE IT A GO
I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.
Have you ever put yourselves in the shoes of a homeless person? A homeless person at Christmas? And in saying the above, I'm assuming that this person has shoes that you can put your feet into ...
You may never have thought about it, but there are thousands of people out there, just on the edge of our suburbs of plenty, who live on the streets or even in bushland, with never a roof over their heads.
They often go cold and they go hungry.
They are lonely and they are stigmatised.
Without thought we comfortable people attach labels such as 'useless' and 'no-hopers' to those who are different, when they're mostly just down on their luck, or ill.
How can a homeless person shower each day? How can they afford a hair cut or shaving gear?
By far the greatest percentage of homeless people have some type of mental illness, ranging from the dreaded schizophrenia to depression and anxiety.
People with psychosis often live with demons in their head. These demons all seem very real and may swamp a person's life with threats and intimidation from insistent voices.
Other sufferers may be afraid of electricity, thinking it lethal or attached to entities they (and we) can't understand. Some KNOW that strangers from outer space are after them, or have implanted electronic tracking devices in their bodies.
These hallucinations and delusions are often non stop and people with them must cope every day, combatting competing forces within their minds. No wonder they find it hard to keep a job, or be consistent enough to maintain the lease of a house. How could you even watch television? If there was one around!
It is thought that about one in four people suffer a mental illness in some time in their lives, and many more people (families, employers, neighbours, friends) are touched by it.
Many homeless people haven't seen their families for years and others have split up with their partners.
And what's more the pity, increasingly homeless people include parents with children. Whole families.
Yes, even in the most wealthy of countries families are losing their homes - and that's been going on long before the present global financial crisis. Ity could happen to any of us.
What would you do if that happened? How could you cope?
Homeless shelters are filled to overflowing these days. Rents are exhorbitant.
You're put out of your house because a month ago you lost your job which was only part time and casual anyway. Because of this family savings are non-existent.
Where do you put your bits and pieces? Where do you and yours lay your heads that night? And the next?
I'm sorry to be serious but the world must think of these things more often, especially in the months to come. Governments too. Primarily governments. But individuals can help by simply being aware and doing what we can.
As a volunteer, I run a support group for carers and families of people with a mental illness. We meet twice a month in the local library and the people who come to us often say the group has 'changed their lives'. We don't do much except be there and understand ...
It is huge when families discover that there are many others out there in the same boat. Carers swap their stories and their experiences, and the result is exciting.
Every year since 2004 we have been doing just a little to help mentally ill people who are homeless or down on their luck at Christmas.
Local service clubs help us with money and a Lions Club - the Lions Club of Terranora in Northern NSW Australia - gives us Christmas cakes. Members run sausage sizzles at local shopping centres through the year, to raise the funds.
We try to ferret out the most needy in our community to receive these small boxes of joy. Some we find literally on the streets or sleeping on the river bank. There are so many if you look.
So our Christmas cakes must go a long way. Local community organisations who care about these things are thrilled when we call with promises of the gifts. Last year the need was so great that some cakes were cut in half so they would go further ...
It's pretty special to know that at least some of our needy learn at Christmas that someone does care.
A happy and thoughtful pre-Christmas to all of my bloggy mates.
Sincerely June in Oz
By the way I posted episode 9 of my Australian mystery novel 'Paternity' on Journeys in Creative Writing today. You can begin at the beginning by clicking here and scrolling down to November 16 Episode One.
Currumbin Waters, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
I'm past my 70th birthday and undaunted.
So far I can look back on probably a dozen different phases in my life, all producing deeply felt experience:
- A barefoot carefree childhood in an Australian seaside town
- Work as a young journalist in the days of hot metal and male chauvinism
- Dipping my toe into real life in Sydney the big city
- Marriage and precious motherhood
- A second career in corporate public relations management
- Another marriage and disillusion
- Battles for financial justice in the law courts
- Re-jigging a career
- At 60 my first university degree (Creative Writing and Australian History majors)
- Fighting sometimes lost causes
- Sneaky aches and pains of the approach of age
- Living on a pension.
All fodder for writing and a valuable background for the development of what could become one day an incisive point of view.
My blogs may become a way of answering the question: 'What's next?'