Last night with work, I got to visit New Life City Church in Belfast where charity RUTH, Raising Up The Hurting, meet once a month with all kinds of people who have fallen on hard times. I met people who lived in hostels, lived on the streets and people who had managed to get back on their feet and live in a place of their own.
Once again, it put everything in perspective for me and got me thinking about thankfulness. I’ve met and worked with people in similar circumstances before. When I did an internship in Belfast city centre, once a week we would have breakfast with the men from the hostel up the road. Some of their stories were incredible and it was devastating to see how their lives had changed so drastically.
There still exists this kind of stereotype around homeless people; bedraggled, unhygienic, criminals, lazy. The list, sadly, is endless. Working in Belfast those years ago opened my eyes to how easy it is to find yourself on the streets. I think the people I was with last night got their eyes opened too.
I was very moved by someone I met last night who was qualified in the profession but through reasons we never got round to discussing, lost their job and found themselves homeless. Though they didn’t share a lot about themselves, it hit home that this kind of thing could happen to literally anyone, and it does. They talked about their career aspirations, how they wanted to volunteer and get involved in mental health and youth work. I felt sad that they might not have those opportunities for a while but glad that they had hope and wanted to keep going.
It brought back memories of the men I met during my internship; doctors, bankers, fathers, brothers. Some had addictions, some had mental health problems, some had marriage breakdowns. They had the kindest hearts and a drive to get back to the way things used to be but opportunities and help can be hard to come by. It still saddens me that there isn’t enough support for these kinds of issues but that’s a post for another day.
The main crux of this post is about being thankful. I know people harp on about this all the time; people are living in poverty, people have terrible incurable illnesses, we’re lucky we don’t live in a third world country, but I cannot reiterate enough how thankful we need to be for what we have.
On the drive home last night I sat and thought about how lucky I am to have a warm home to go to, a comfortable bed, a family who love me and a full-time job. Right now I’m thinking about how lucky I am to have money to pay for electric and heating and a laptop to type this post out. I think I’ve fallen into a dangerous habit of taking those things for granted.
I think I even take for granted where I live. I know Northern Ireland has its own issues but I’m writing this in the wake of several terror attacks in London, Syria and most recently in Stockholm. Even though these attacks are getting close to home, we should be so thankful for where we live, for our health service and for the servicemen and servicewomen who fight to protect us each day.
I’m not saying you don’t have a right to complain or have a moan about something; it would be unrealistic of me to say so. Right now, I’m moaning about the fact I have a cold and growing pains in my arm. Complaining comes naturally to us all. I’m just saying that it’s actually pretty good, and healthy I think, for us to reflect on what we have and be thankful for it.
I know of people who talk each day about three things they’re grateful for and I think that’s a good approach to adopt. I’m going to try and do that more often; I think (and hope) that I’ll end up being thankful and appreciative of even the smallest things.
What are you thankful for today?