Soon after I woke up this morning I had a strange experience.
I had dreamed of a homeless man I had breakfast with in San Francisco years ago who told me something I’ve never forgotten.
“Being homeless ain’t about not having four walls, or not having stuff or an address,” he’d said. “It’s about not being from somewhere’s.”
He went on to explain, gesturing with his hand, that me and the other people around him sitting there in that diner, well, we all were from somewhere’s.
“Ya’ll carry that somewhere’s that you’re from inside of you. It’s part of who you are.”
He paused, making sure that I was understanding him and looked directly at me with his pale blue eyes.
“You?” he said, nodding his chin in my direction. “You’re not just you sitting there across the table from me. You’re a person with a place—a fire. It’s part of your identity and it protects you. Me? I don’t have that fire. So, being homeless is the same thing as being empty.”
Not that I’m homeless. Hell. Not even close. But I am packing up my current home and moving from it to another State. I’ve spent the last week or so sorting through all my personal belongings—books, clothing, pictures, etc. —that I have collected over the years.
The goal is to leave behind everything except that which fits into the back of a small hatch back car.
My husband and I haven’t found a place to move into yet so in a small way, I’m homeless right now and if I dug down deep enough I could actually identify the strange feelings I had when I woke up.
It’s if I was putting out my own fire and I was feeling empty inside.
Suddenly, in my mind’s eye I saw streams of refugees. They’d all left their homes—or worse yet, their homes had been blown out from under them in war torn situations.
I saw people, right here in my own country whose homes had been flooded, the water taking everything away with it.
I even saw my mother on that great ship of refugees that had landed on Ellis Island about a hundred years ago. She and entire generations like her had left their homes in Europe not really knowing where their new homes in America were going to be or whether in fact they would have one.
I saw a world full of dazed and confused people going far back into history. Without their homes, they are lost as if they too had just awakened from a bad dream.
As I got up and started my day, I was even more convinced than ever that we humans really are all connected in our experiences.
While my current situation doesn’t even begin to compare in intensity or in need with that of so many others of my brothers’ and sisters’ experiences, in some small way it still helps me to understand all the more keenly what it’s like when the changes and tragedies of life steal our fires and leave us homeless.
Author Bio: Carmelene Melanie Siani