— We all see people experiencing homelessness and hunger everywhere in the streets of New York; their number has never been so high since the Great Depression. But we rarely know who they are, what their story is and how exactly they survive in such a harsh environment.
I have spent several months behind the doors of the shelters and in the programs of the Bowery Mission, the largest and oldest NGO taking care of New Yorkers in need. I met New Yorkers who are not “just” without a home. They are disconnected from their family and any kind of social relationship; they have no more trust in others or themselves; they have lost their sense of identity. But they are still here, -struggling.
Those survivors of our contemporary world can teach us much more than we think about life, resilience and the importance of spirituality. They are wiser than many of us. I dedicate this work to those who have the courage to stand up and fight for their dignity as human beings.
“What I learned is that God is always with me. My only regretis when I didn’t trust Him enough.”
“I’m not afraid of anything, except the Lord and cockroaches.”
“We have many fears in life. People don’t want to acknowledge them to the outside world. So we talk a certain way, but deep down, we all want to be loved.”
“If I had to tell anyone what I learned from my life, it would be: respect your parents, respect authority and above all, respect yourself.”
“I did the whole program at The Bowery Mission twice. I’ve been literally saved from death. The number one lesson I have from my whole life is to never give up.”
“You need something to lean on in the hard times of your life. It gives you a backbone that many of us are missing.”
“At the end of the day, it’s all me. I’m responsible for everything, so all I have to change is myself.”
“God asks us to love the others but when you are carrying your own pain, it is so difficult. We all need to grow spiritually.”
“I learnt that I’m stronger than I thought. I can go through it, I know it.”
“You cannot expect anyone to count on you if you cannot count on yourself.”
“The main lesson I learned from my life is not to be afraid of opening up and sharing. Don’t be afraid to be you, the real you.”
“I see men all around me with nice houses, nice families… I never lived this kind of life. Now I put boundaries around me to prevent me from falling again.”