Last night I had to meet with some community leaders at one of two satellite shelters we run for homeless men. One of the clients, as he walked passed our group where we huddled out of the way of the sign-in desk, stopped to say hello.
"Thanks for coming in to see us," he said. "This shelter is Calgary's answer to affordable housing. I can afford $200 to $300 a month. But there's nothing to rent in that range in Calgary so this is what I get. It's okay, though I'd sure like my own place better."
There's that perspective thing again. I'd never thought of the satellite shelter, or any shelter for that matter, from that particular point of view.
I chatted with a man at the main shelter before I left earlier in the day. "It's not that bad," he said. "I suffer from severe depression. I need a safe place and can't afford anything in Calgary right now. At least I've got this place to stay until I can get back on my feet."
Gratitude in the face of adversity.
It's easy to lose perspective when surrounded by the darkness. It's easy to become negative when the world around you continually reminds you of what a loser you are to be homeless, out of work, down on your luck, addicted, or mentally ill.
One of the artists said to a photographer who had come in to take some photos of his art work the other day that he would never have begun to express himself artistically again if it hadn't been for the shelter and the art program. "What art lets me do is surround myself with beauty," he said. "Chief Dan George once said that it's hard to find the beauty within if around you the world is constantly showing you how ugly you are. When you're homeless, being told you're ugly is a constant litany thrown at you by the outside world, as well as inside you. When I paint, I dip myself into a beautiful space and push away the ugliness around me."
Every day there is ugliness in the world. Everyday I have the opportunity to change my perspective. To dip myself into the beautiful space within me and touch the well of my creative spirit. Every day I have the choice of painting a vibrant rainbow coloured world, or a world of foreboding darkness. I can pull beautiful threads of vibrant colour from within me into my tapestry of life. Or I can weave in the doom and gloom of the world around me.
The choice is mine.
I can take the good with the bad and make it a full meal deal. Or, I can spit out the good as I choke on the bad filling me up.
The question is: What's your choice? To fill yourself up on a healthy perspective of life is bountiful, my possibilities are limitless. Or, life is a daily grind of same old, same old filled up with the pessimism of believing, nothing ever changes? What's your choice?