This 'backstory' is the third of three you will find about the experience of going to homeless camps and the mental and emotional effects this had on the writers. The words come from Amy, Larissa and Dawn who joined me as we filmed three different locations and met the wonderful people who call these camps 'home'. We now consider them as our homeless friends.
(Introduction by Randy Bacon)
Homeless Outreach is my core passion and a big part of what I am blessed to get to do every day. It is something you can be a part of all day every day and still never stop growing from your experiences of meeting people, hearing their stories, investing in their lives and doing what you can to make a difference. Whenever I drop any of my homeless friends off at their tent’s, I always leave wishing I didn’t have to leave them there. That I could take them to my home and that they weren’t spending their night on the cold wet ground. I knew God was going to use this experience of walking through camp sites to wreck my world in the best way, and what I experienced was nothing short of just that.
My friend D shared with us his love for beautiful stones, exploring, and telling stories. He sat just outside his tent and showed us his precious collection of rocks and stones and told us how each one was unique and beautiful. Let me tell you that D is a unique and beautiful person himself and his smile as he handed me one of his treasures to keep was priceless.
We talked with the sweetest young couple who did nothing but crack jokes with us and each other, hug the other and remind us of the little things in life we take for granted. The world may view them as having little, but you could see in the way they held each other, that they understand the things and people in life that really matter most. I am thankful for their beautiful reminder that if you have love in your life, you are richer than anything money could ever buy.
My longtime friend Michael took us to his incredibly engineered camp site where he shared his life hacks and brilliant survival skills to keep his tent and surrounding area in top shape. It warmed my heart as we were walking away from his camp site, & I turned to see Michael pick up a small twig and precisely lean it against what is fashioned as his doorway to his home area. He takes so much care in what he calls home. Michael is one of the smartest people I know.
It’s hard to describe the mixture of feelings and emotions I had looking around their campsites, with dozens of cans, worn out clothing, torn up mattresses covered in leaves and duct taped tents. It was one thing to spend time with my friends during the day and evening at various events and locations, but it was something else entirely when I finally walked through piles of forgotten items and endless amounts of brush, thorns & dirt to get to where they lay their heads every night. For these people who live without a roof over their head, it was a huge vote of trust and hospitality for them (some previously strangers to us) to allow us into their living areas to film, take photos and speak with them, trusting that we would not disclose their location. I can’t imagine what it feels like to know that you could come back one day to find that all your belongings were stolen, your tent burnt to the grown, and the area you were staying in is off limits and you have to leave with nothing and no money to stay anywhere. This is a heartbreaking reality for so many of our friends who then have to start over time after time. It really hit me hard, the reality of conditions that my friends live in day after day, snow or high temperatures. I will never forget the things we saw, the genuine people we met, and the impact that those campsites, and my friends, have on my life and this world every day.
Words of wisdom from Larissa
I want people to know that homelessness can happen to ANYONE and that there is so much more to every person’s story, how they got to where they are, what they may be struggling with, and what they can offer as a human being. I have never stopped learning from the lives they live and God is consistently wrecking my world views with each new friend I make that lives on the street. “Homeless” should not define who they are. The group of people I have been honored to meet over the past few years who just happen to live on the streets, are some of the most caring, selfless, unconditionally loving individuals you’ll ever meet, who would (and sometimes do) give everything they have to help another person with no strings attached…. that is how we are supposed to live our lives!!
One of the most common things I hear from my friends on the streets, is that on the days when they are at their lowest, if someone just simply smiles and says “Hello” when they pass by, it reminds them that there are caring people in this world and that they matter enough for someone to notice. They want to be recognized as valued individuals because they ARE valuable individuals. Compassion is always inconvenient and that’s the beauty of it. PEOPLE are what Latter and we need to look up from our own little world, say hello to strangers, hug someone who may not appear to be friendly or clean, and take a moment to focus on others no matter how busy you are or what kind of day you’re having. Know that everyone has a story and there is so much more depth to a person that where they live or how the look.
“If you knew their whole story, there isn’t a person in this world you wouldn’t love.” - Unknown