In as little as two years, I have completely changed my life and my perspective on my career. Of course I was grateful for having employment, for being able to provide for my son, and even giving myself small rewards along the way. I still struggled financially, but it was enough.Even though at the time most of my colleagues thought I was insane for giving up a job with a decent wage, but my heart and my gut knew that I was doing the right thing.
Two years later, after many other struggles, here I am, I can't imagine doing anything else. The old saying is true, "If you are doing something that you love, you'll never work a day in your life".All that said, I have made it a purpose, my mission, to make an impact in my community by getting involved in worthy local causes.
Thursday evening, I took part in the CEO Sleepout, a Downtown Winnipeg Biz initiative to raise funds - and awareness - for the under-privileged citizens of this city. On this day, 100 local business owners, CEOs, and community leaders gathered together to sleep outside for one night.
We gave up the comforts of our plush, king or queen sized, duvets for one night on the street. And in my effort to put this into perspective for all those that either didn't take part in the event, or didn't know what it was all about, I will describe some of the things that I have observed throughout this process.
I. There will be haters, those that turn their backs because they didn't understand what we are REALLY trying to accomplish. There was no attempt, by any means, from any one of us to be or to make a mockery of the homeless. It is a severely serious issue in Winnipeg, one of which that needs to be eliminated. We were - and still are - striving to make this happen.
II. Homeless people are people, just like you and I. They have families, had a home and a job, and they had similar struggles; yet, they are judged and ridiculed, they are stereotyped and avoided by the general population because we simply don't understand them nor does anyone take the time to know anything about them. It is NOT their choice to live on the streets, but for over 350 people, it is THEIR reality. Unfortunate life circumstances, job loss, and addiction led them to live a life that we just couldn't fathom living. And the landslide continues.
III. The "CEOs" weren't all business owners or running a huge corporation, some of us are still in the very infancy of success. Some of the participants, including myself, some of us still make just enough to survive. We didn't all claim to be CEOs. I'm not rich by any means and there are times that pay day just can't come fast enough but I HAVE a pay day.
As I rolled out my Cadillac of sleeping bags and search for a somewhat comfortable spot in the wood chips, it occurred to me that the homeless don't have the luxury that I did that night. Even though I didn't expect the best night sleep, I did however, long for my bed.
Throughout the course of the next day, I found myself intoxicated with fatigue. It was impossible for me to concentrate and make sense of things. I desired sleep. It occurred to me that most of our homeless likely feel - and think - the same way. My functionality was at an all time low which made me realize, yet again, that mental illness likely develops throughout the years of long sleepless nights on the streets. It certainly affected my condition, and I was only there for one night.
That being the case, there are a landslide of other issues that they will encounter that the rest of us are privileged enough never to worry about.As I write this, I am overwhelmed with emotion. I have a deep desire to make a difference and to educate those that don't know anything about homelessness. I realize that I may never be able to do either, so the only thing I can do is continue to raise funds and awareness and speak of my experience hoping that it will make a impact.
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Everything helps. Thank you for taking the time to read about my experience and Thank you to my new friends for making this experience a thousand times more special.