“Do I need you to exist?” asked the man on the street.
I was in a hurry, on my way to a coaching session for my ‘personal development’, and tempted to pretend I hadn’t heard.
But the incongruity of ignoring a plea for personal interaction in my quest for personal development would not allow me to do so.
My answer, I admit, was deliberately stalling: “Me personally? Or in general?”.
He started to tell me, with an engaging, roguish twinkle in his eye, about how we all need each other, how in this universe we are all connected.
I smiled. I engaged. I gave coins.
At this, he grasped my hand: “This isn’t money anymore”, he said, “this is the currency of compassion. I am a pirate of compassion”.
His mission extended beyond mere survival. He craved feelings, connections, and I knew exactly what he meant. It’s hard to feel someone else’s pain but it does make you feel alive.
I arrived at my coaching session on time, recounted the encounter and promptly burst into tears.
It’s like I’m not there
The question of existence is one that must come up a lot for those who eke out their lives on the streets. People looking the other way, looking through them. Am I even here?
One girl, sitting very still, face in her hands, head on her knees at the top of a steep flight of steps near the station, said: “No-one even looks at me. It’s like I’m not there”.
This was after I walked past her then retraced my steps when the voice in my head wouldn’t let me walk on before going back to check she was ok.
I gave her an energy bar I had in my bag and some cash to get something warm to eat and drink. She gave me a hug so hard that tears again sprang to my eyes.
I should have told her: it’s not that people don’t care, they’re scared of caring too much, of feeling your pain and not knowing what to do with it. Scared of compassion.
You are not alone
Homelessness is one extreme of feeling disconnected but it can happen in less obvious situations too. When people expect you to be happy and joyous, it can be hard to disabuse them of the notion.
New mums are constantly being told how happy they must be, how delighted, how proud. But they aren’t often told how lonely they might feel, with a gorgeous but not particularly articulate newborn for company.
One of our clients, Channel Mum, is a community of mums and their vloggers share opinions on everything from shopping and money-saving to IVF and smear tests.
Channel Mum’s recent flagship campaign focuses on the feeling that too many women get when they become mothers; that they have become somehow disconnected from their old life and friends, and are finding it hard (in the mists of sleeplessness and new baby challenges) to forge new connections.
You Are Not Alone (or YANA for short) encourages mums to reach out to each other, to be honest with one another about what they find hard (no more brave faces), and to tell each other: “You are not alone”.
Ready to connect?
Really connecting is hard, and you can’t do it without compassion. But if you’re feeling brave, give it a go. The pirates are waiting for you, and they know where the treasure lies.