Written by Sarah Evangeline

Why do people who have so little have so much to give?

This is the thought that ran through my head as I walked the streets of Nelson, British Columbia. This place was so timeless and beautiful, nestled between two snow-capped mountains. Nelson was full of diversity, colour and character, like a rare, carved diamond. Yet, as I walked the streets, I saw hurt, pain and people who had no roof over their heads.

For two weeks, I had the privilege of working in the drop-in centre, which was really called “Nelson’s Living Room” because it was a safe haven for anyone to come. As I grew and walked alongside these brave people, I started to feel a shift in my heart and mind. I realized how desensitized I had become to people living on the street. I learned that even though these people had only the clothes on their back, they had so much life to give me. As I traveled back home to Winnipeg, I took notes of how I was changed. I hope they will help you too:

1. Stop with the “homeless people” label

I learned very quickly how important it is to be intentional and remember people’s actual names. We are all homeless until we reach the gates of heaven. We need to stop putting ourselves on different levels and look at our brothers and sisters as people, without the labels in front.

2. Believe in each other

Most people do not choose to live on the streets, but life has been unfair. Most of the people I talked to have been let down more times than they can remember. Many of them have lost touch with family, and still too many of them have lost the ability to believe in themselves. How amazing it would be if we took time to say words that count. We can plant seeds of hope that will hopefully become stepping stones to a better kind of life.

3. They are creative and compassionate people

I can still hear the music filling the streets of Nelson. Two men, one with a beaten-up, old guitar and the other with a stand-alone drum, singing their hearts out. Then there was the girl who loved watercolour art and gave me her best picture to take home with me. There was the man who volunteered every day in the kitchen to give back to his community. If we stop judging and start listening to our surroundings, we would see that everyone has a purpose to give to this world, which leads me to my next point.

4. They have a purpose

People living on the streets learn how to survive in a community. I have never seen such a community that loves, supports and keeps each other accountable than in these beautiful humans of Nelson. They reminded me of a huge purpose we are all called to: live in community.5 It could have been me. I saw a girl who was my age, and all I could think is, “Why not me?” None of us get to choose the kind of life we are born into, but we can change our perspectives. Everyone needs compassion, regardless of their life circumstance. We live in a hurting and broken world, yet each one of us can make a difference. We can change the pain upside down if we can carry compassion, humility and love in our hearts and minds. We don’t have to avoid eye contact or ignore the people who are right in front of us.6 Live with a different mindset. If our minds think of beauty, we will see a beautiful world. Each individual has been made in the image of God, and carry a beauty that we can only begin to imagine which will be unveiled in the age to come.