May the Angel of the Imagination enable you
To stand on the true thresholds,
At ease with your ambivalence
And drawn in new directions
Through the glow of your contradictions.
from Blessing of Angels John O'Donohue
I work in a place where people are living lives they never imagined possible. Who could have seen it coming? they ask. Who knew...
They look at the choices that lead them to the shelter door and wonder, 'how could 'this' have happened?"
Often, they believe it's not their fault. Bad roommate. Bad employer. Bad economy. The addiction. What can I do? I'm helpless. Hopeless. Homeless.
To make sense of what has become the nonsense of their lives, they look at all the things that have contributed to their finding themselves in a homeless shelter, and reject the notion, there's something they can do to change what is happening to them today.
Homeless begins to equate with 'hopeless' and in their hopelessness, they resign themselves to the belief that now could be forever. What on earth can they do to change the powerful winds of destiny blowing them into the door of the shelter?
Yet, in that place is the hope, the dream, the belief that 'now is not forever'. Though sometimes, it feels like it will always be this way, as the four graduates of Project Forward, a life-skills and personal finance course I teach in, attested to last night, 'now is definitely not forever'.
The four men had come to join the new members of Project Forward to share a little inspiration.
"You know," said one of the graduates, "when I started this course a year ago, I didn't have a job. I didn't have a bank account. I lived in the shelter and I worried I'd never get out. Now, I'm living on my own. Every month I do my budget. Make sure my rent and essentials are covered and put a bit into my savings and next month, I'm going on a holiday. Imagine. Me. On holiday."
What was fascinating last night was that along with the breath of hope was 'ambivalence' -- no, this couldn't be me. I can't get a job. I can't... The other students listened and wanted to disavow 'it could happen to me'. Just as, once upon a time, they thought, 'it couldn't happen to me', -- homelessness that is -- they wanted to disavow that getting out of this situation, finding a job, moving on could happen to them.
All it takes is a little imagination.
Imagine, I invited the group, that you have a job, you've saved up enough to move out, you're moving on with your life leaving 'this place' behind. Imagine how that would feel.
Pretty awesome, said one.
Amazing, said another.
If you can imagine it, it can be so, I told them.
But first, we must give up our disbelief. Let go of our consternation. Our confusion. Our desire to not dream. Our wish to not 'think big', to not think beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone.
It was an inspiring evening. The four graduates shared their stories. Their struggles with moving on and their joy in being on the road of life unencumbered by the belief, 'here (being homeless) is all I deserve'.
And through it all, I was reminded of the Angel of the Imagination's power to shake me up, to riddle me with questioning of my ambivalence.
Do I believe?
Do I believe these men have what it takes to move on, move out, keep moving forward?
But my belief in them is nothing compared to what it will take for them to believe in themselves. And until a timethat they can awaken to their self-belief I must hold onto my belief in them, for them. I must hold the card in place for them until they are willing to take their place on the other side of the table where, 'here' is not where they belong. Where 'here' is just a memory of a stepping stone, a momentary way-station where they caught their breath until they built up the courage to grab hold of the dream that there is, beyond the horizon, a world of freedom and joy and feeling mighty proud of yourself. A world never before imagined.
In that room, I cannot afford ambivalence. For in that room, I must stay awake. Remain open and steadfast in my belief that -- we are all magnificent beings on the journey of our lifetimes. In this time and place to be all we're meant to be. Connected. Committed. Supporting each other as we call upon the Angels to carry us through rough waters, turbulent times and moments of despair that would have us believe 'now is forever'.
And until they can grab hold of their dreams, their belief that 'out there' is not just a figment of their imagination but a real possibility, then, along with those who came to support and inspire the class last night, I shall hold onto my belief and cherish the opportunity to be part of the unfolding of their disbelief. I shall continue to let my imagination draw them out into that place where they learn to awaken to the truth of their birthright as they turn their eyes into the wonder and awe of being who they were always meant to be. Magnificent beings on the human journey of their lifetime.