As Lent draws to a close, what can be learnt from our journeys and the journeys of those around us?
Frequently this Lent I found myself complaining that: “This is the hardest Lent I have ever done.”
In previous years I had never sacrificed anything especially spectacular: no more crisps, chocolate, coffee, booze, swearing. This year I went all out and decided to give up sugar. No more nipping to the kitchen for a chocolate biscuit to distract myself from boredom. No pastries to go with a mid-morning coffee. And definitely no tubs of Ben and Jerry’s after a long week.
The time I spent thinking about having a chocolate bar or a doughnut far outweighed the time I would have spent devouring them. It forced me to confront myself – what was I doing in these moments? I wasn’t really hungry, and I usually wasn’t tired: I was trying to distract my mind. I was reaching for comfort and a temporary buzz.
For many of the people we help, forgetting your current situation is a huge relief, and forcing yourself to face it head on is an incredibly difficult task.
Every day we hear stories of men like Chris, who found the strength to face his issues and overcome them.
When he first entered a hostel, he was bouncing between temporary mental health services and the street, never sticking to anything that could help him to rebuild his life. A combination of complex mental and physical issues had left him homeless and struggling: he suffered from schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder, and depression, plus problems with his spine.
His support worker has since watched him come a long, long way. He is now halfway through a college course in animal care and has begin doing some volunteering. He attends GP and hospital appointments regularly and works hard to look after his mental health.
Finally, he feels able to live independently and applied for social housing in order to begin the next stage of his life. As Chris was street homeless, he only had a few possessions that he could carry in a rucksack and his council property is an empty shell. There is no furniture or curtains; only a concrete floor. He has spent all his savings on getting essentials like a bed and cooker, but will be unable to afford anything else for quite some time, especially now as he is liable for bills.
To help him settle into his new home, relieve some of the pressure he feels, and benefit his mental health, we funded curtains and carpets for his bare rooms. He can now move positively into a new phase of his life.
This Easter, I’m thankful for having the mental and physical resources that allow me to make small sacrifices. And so grateful that it puts me in a position to support others who have so much more to face.