Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.
– Margaret Mead
I have been thinking of more constructive ways to “make it better” for my dad and the countless other homeless who suffer from mental illness. Through my experiences in trying to get help, I have become more aware of the disconnect between various agencies and organizations in our community. For whatever reason, these organizations appear to work in silos and it is incredibly challenging to receive accurate information on where my dad can go for assistance (when he agrees to it).
I completely understand that resources are limited, and the existing system is already bogged down from having to process and maintain services. But, I do think I can help. I approached one of my mentors at the law school this past week, and came up with a plan to integrate my legal education with my personal efforts with the homeless (including my dad). I can’t think of any better way to use this time to participate in the discussion, and apply what I am learning through my legal studies. My goal is to improve the system by providing a resource manual for families who are experiencing similar struggles.
There is a wealth of information out there, but I have yet to find one place that identifies the resources, requirements, and necessary steps in getting a homeless person from Point A to Point B. So, what does that actually mean? It means that if a person living on the streets is ready and willing to receive assistance, then the goal should be to get that person help within that workday. The other is addressing the issue that I experience personally with my dad. Over the past year and a half of visiting him and trying to communicate, I have learned that I cannot anticipate how he will be mentally when I approach him. In the beginning, there were times where he did not even recognize me or speak to me. During those precious minutes when he agreed to going to a shelter and getting treatment, he would change his mind. The fragility of these moments are incredibly frustrating and heartbreaking.
I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have a solution that will help everyone. But, I do want to make things better. Even if it means starting with my dad. I want to see him drive a taxi cab again. I want to see him standing tall and strong again. I want to share his favorite noodles with him again. One of the last “real conversations” I had with him was in the parking lot of his old apartment a few years ago. His words touched my heart, and I forgave him for everything. He said:
“Diana, I am so sorry for not being in your life. I am so happy that you have a family of your own now. Do better for them. Don’t worry about me or what everyone says about me. If you want to make me proud and happy, be there for your family the way your mom and I never were. Stop trying to save everyone… just worry about yourself and your family. And don’t forget why I named you Diana, you are the light within the darkness.”
There is a lot of pain and suffering in this world, but I truly believe that we can make a conscious choice everyday to make things better. Forgive those who ask for forgiveness, and do your best to not repeat the cycle of negativity and pain in your own life. Our time here is so short, and I would much rather die knowing that I tried to make it better. People have asked what they can do to help. In all honesty, I think we can help just by being nicer to the people around us. We all have a family member or friend who could probably use a little more positivity in their life, and yes… the homeless person sitting on the sidewalk. It’s all up to us as individuals to decide what’s the best way we can help, and then to act on it. Every small gesture of kindness can create waves of positivity in this world…
The uncertainty of what lies ahead for my dad scares me… it hurts me… but, I know there are things in life that we can change. How we choose to see any given situation, and what we do with them. I’m feeling hopeful today.
Until next time….