How does it happen? One moment someone means the world to you, and the next moment they are gone. Maybe they left in anger, slamming the door behind them, or maybe they intentionally stepped away hurting you with their silence. It seems everyone has a story about losing touch with a friend or family member. Sometimes it’s just a slow drift apart where you can’t even recall why you stopped talking. Other times it’s a spat between relatives, siblings rivalry, or lovers who have had a falling out. We don’t have to look to far to find a broken connection.
Pride gets in the way when relationships break down and it’s hard to be the one to reach out and say I’m sorry. Three little words that mean so much (I love you) become increasingly hard when layers of hurt exist. For some, it’s easier to save mending fences for another day. There will always be tomorrow. Or at least, we hope there will be.
Meet Clayton Kuefler. He never expected to lose touch with his mom. But here he is, living a lonely life on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He teared up while he used his shopping cart to write a card. He asked me to step behind him so others on the street would not see him crying. For men especially, vulnerability is hard. It had been a long time since Clayton had felt the raw emotion of his broken connection. In his words “This is why I don’t sober up – I just can’t handle the pain. My biggest fear is dying alone. Sometimes I wonder – would it be weeks or months before my family realized I was gone?”
So far we have not found his mom, Margo Kuefler, who lived in Langley, BC in 2014. They haven’t spoken for five years. We have found her on Facebook but to date our message remains unread.
Gabor Mate says the opposite of fear is not safety. The opposite of fear is connection. Just knowing you have someone in your corner, cheering for you and ready to answer your phone call can mean the world. That void that divides can leave a whole in the heart – one that many choose to mask with addiction. Addiction to drugs, alcohol, work or an addiction to just being ‘too busy’ to reach out.
This Christmas Project HELLO connected 53 people living on the streets with friends or family they had lost touch with. We now wait and hope some of the recipients will reach out to our students and thank them for their connection. Here is the first message we have received from a father of a man named Justin.
“I thank you so much for doing this. Please tell the kids that helped with this project that this is very important. We are trying so hard to help Justin find his way home. Small things like this make a huge impact on people like my son. Believe it or not, sometimes things like this can change the path of travel an individual takes. Maybe not immediately, but as time does it helps them. They felt human again and had a chance to tell family they love them regardless of where they are at in their lives. Merry Christmas to you and all of your students.”
The Downtown Eastside seems a world apart to most of us – but is it really? Who have you lost touch with? Who have you been meaning to call? Who do you wish you could spend one more day with? Take time to phone, text, message or call. Sometimes something as simple as hello can remind someone that they matter.