There are reported to be ten thousand homeless people, every night, on the streets in the UK. Ten thousand bodies drifting past you. Do you ever look at them and wondered who they are? Where they’ve come from? Or how many of you have look the other way, feel wary of them? Are they addicts, criminals…Not your problem?
How many of you have considered what their story is?
On our recent visit to London, we witnessed some difficult images: a row of tents off Trafalgar Square; a girl looking no older than my middle one, looking straight through me with dead haunting eyes; a young man who appeared clean cut, his clothes were of good quality and labelling. He looked like my friend’s son. What on earth was he doing begging for money? The answer is none of us know. Those children could be mine or yours. What triggered their situation? whether abuse, mental health problems or running from fractured families. All of which can seem insurmountable problems to solve. So they run…it’s an issue than spreads much further than the young. I recently watched a news report about a couple who’d lost everything. They had worked all their lives and had been reduced to living in their car. They were in their fifties and their future looked bleak. What type of society do we live in, where these things have not only become the socially acknowledged, but accepted?
The short answer is that we sometimes find it out easier to run away from something rather than confront it head on. Whether it’s our own baggage or another’s. You lead a busy life. You keep you and yours safe. But is it right that society should choose to be blind?
You see, I don’t choose to be going blind, in fact I fight every day for my sight. Yet so many are blind sighted to people who are fighting battles they (me included) know nothing about. We inherently judge, and try as we might, to be good people, we often miss the bigger picture. And that’s why I blog. It’s not about me but it’s about you, them, everyone. The world can be a lonely place but it needn’t be.
So, how do we change things? My counsellor recently asked me what I did for a living. I explained I taught English in a secondary school. She then asked me to explain about the school and the children I teach. We discussed the demographic and she rightly assumed that I have to differentiate for many different needs. Supporting SEN students, dyslexia, poor literacy, partially sighted, EAL…she then asked me who differentiated for me? The irony being that no one really did. Running away and hiding from my disability was cowardly. The children I teach humbling me because of their ability to just get on with it. That fact that I’d learnt to build an environment when they felt comfortable to ask me for help and support.
Instead I’ve had to adapt my life secretly. I’ve used bright lights, magnifiers, spent hours in the opticians whilst we find the ‘very best prescription possible’. I’ve spent years planning scenarios and escape routes from places I feel uncomfortable. Getting to places early so I can recce the surroundings, turn lights on, find the toilets, get the lay of the land. Checking for yellow floor signs that I always, always m, knock over! I’ve developed a fabulous memory and commit many images to it. Memorising and storing up for a rainy day. It’s helped me out of a great deal of situations and it’s also helped me maintain relationships, (I let people win arguments – even when I can remember the truth. So don’t be fooled by vacant exterior). But now I’ve begun to let go of the ‘social pride’, sick of living on a dangerous precipice and decided that it’s lonely on the edge. I’ve taken the risk and I’m free-falling – it’s scary but exhilarating…
Luckily for me I’m now being given expert advice. My good friend ‘Karl’ (name changed for anonymity) came round and demonstrated how to make tea as a blind person (Karl had previously demonstrated and burnt her finger as she didn’t take it out in time). My middle daughter bought me two glamorous eye patches. However, I can’t seem to live up to the model who styled them. Him raised an eyebrow and told me to practise! My wonderful friends have helped me beyond anything I ever dreamt of. Without them I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to talk. Their strength and support has propped me up. I’ve also found friends in the strangest places. We all hide away don’t we? Being so loved by my family and friends prompted me to try to be more independent. I attempted to walk somewhere on my own (no Rosie Dog either). A tried and tested route. Problems ensued when I had to cross a road with roadworks (I can’t cross roads). I had a panic and Him had to pick me up as the other option was walking the long way home. You live and learn but do you know what? I might not be able to go it alone but I’m not dead yet and there’s a whole side of the world I haven’t seen.
Asking for help with my anxiety, depression and sight loss hasn’t been easy. Like the homeless, my story is invisible and isolating. There are badges (but I’m not a badge wearer unless you can buy me a fabulous broach which says it in diamonds) available which day ‘I’m partially sighted’ but I think I’d rather be led to the loo, in a posh restaurant, rather than spoiling my outfit with a plastic badge. Maybe (we’ll see) I’ll end up with cane and dog. What I do know is that I’m going on a two day course to teach me how to live with the sight I have. See, free-falling is good, there’s no shame in asking for help.
If you are living silently with something which scares, overwhelms, or physically makes you not live your life, if you’re on that precipice, please take the risk and ask for help. And if you are one of the lucky ones (I know that there’s not that many of you), or you are walking around with your eyes closed and back turned, open up your arms and hold out your hands because no matter how bad things get, there’s always someone worse off than yourself. Giving love and being loved, there’s nothing more precious.
This blog is dedicated to the people of the christening and two funerals I have attended in three successive days. NahNah Jah’s little sumo Master Carter. May you live a life you’re truly proud of. Embrace the adventure and run like the wind.
In loving memory to a lady who saw it all and certainly did live a life to be proud of. A woman who enriched our lives for simply knowing her and often (In my Dad’s words) took us ‘around the world to Nairobi, with a stop off in Singapore on the way’. God bless you Edna. We hope you’re finally at peace with Roy and your children.
And to my cousin of 48 years who died unexpectedly and suddenly. If there ever was a reason to live life to the full…all my love xxxx