Yesterday marked exactly one year since I joined some friends in England to begin the journey to New York. We'd spent two months fundraising to fly three of us out there to join a stateside friend and volunteer in soup kitchens and food banks. That trip was life changing in more ways than one.
While we were there, we got to talk to people who interact with people who are on low income and / or homeless on a daily basis, as well as speaking to a few people who were homeless. During that week we spoke to a man who had made his way across America and was now living on the streets of New York. He believed that he was a burden on his mother, a foster carer, and a bad influence on the children she took in. We encouraged him to make contact with his mother and made sure he had the money to get a coach home if he chose to do so.
One year on, I found myself listening to the stories of local people who work for services who help people who are homeless, and a few people who had their own experiences of being homeless. Throughout the day, everybody exhibited strength and persistence I've only seen a handful of times in the last few years.
By the end, I was tearful and just wanted to give everyone a hug! It takes courage to stand up and tell your story, especially when you've been dealt a rough hand in life. I found it refreshing and inspiring to sit at the back and watch display after display of passion and strength.
I came back from New York knowing that I wanted to do more, that I wanted to tell my story to more people, that I wanted to help people understand what it feels like to live with mental illness.
I left yesterday's event thinking about what my next step might be. I've not figured it out yet, but it'll be a question that I'll continue considering until I have an answer.