While walking on the Atlantic City boardwalk yesterday I made eye contact with a young man named Leon. Leon said hello and we started talking. We actually sat and talked for about thirty minutes about everything from my tee-shirt to his future ambitions. Leon told me that he was homeless for the past five months and that he was living on the streets, and even sleeping under the boardwalk many nights. Leon went on to tell me that he uses cardboard to stay warm at night...I was speechless after he said that, and if you know me, you know that I'm never speechless. Obviously we all know that there are homeless people living out on the streets, but to hear a fellow man say it to my face was hard to swallow. It's unacceptable actually!
Leon and I talked back and forth like two guys in a bar, or two buddies just hanging out. He was funny, articulate and just a nice guy who with a few poor choices and some shitty luck, wound up on the streets; and none of us are immune to this outcome if we're not careful. Statistically, Leon was delt a few bad hands that helped assist his life in the streets; he grew up without a father, and studies show that this can be a recipe for disaster. Now before anyone flips out and sends me hate mail, some of my best friends grew up without fathers, and they are now highly successful doctors and have extremely fulfilling lives, but statistically speaking, that's a disadvantage. Also, Leon dropped out of high school, and in combination with a fatherless home, growing up in a tough neighborhood, and having little to no education, Leon was at a disadvantage early on.
Leon told me that he looks for work but he has trouble getting hired. He ultimately wants to get a job, get off the streets and go to school to get his GED and to be a graphic designer. He showed me some of his drawings, and they were really good. If Leon can manage to pull a job and work his tail off, he can recover from this massive speed bump. I told him to focus on nothing but getting a job and try to dig himself out of this nasty hole, and I'm really hoping he can do it. It hurts to hear a fellow human tell you that they don't have a bed, a shower, a hot meal, and love. Growing up without love may be the ultimate nail in the coffin, if you grow up with hate, you spread hate, if you grow up with love, you spread love.
As humans it's vital that we treat people like we want to be treated. I was raised to talk to the waitress and the janitor the same exact way I talk to the CEO and the Pro-Athlete. No human is superior, your job or status don't make you any better or worse. Here I am, a big ugly white guy form Philly hitting it off with a black dude from Jersey. We didn't see color, religion or a political side, we were just two humans fighting our way though life.
As I sat there and listened to Leon speak very openly, I couldn't help notice that he was directing a lot of blame for his current situation towards others. Even if this were true and other people (his family) had pushed him in a poor direction, blaming people for a shitty situation that you're in is a great way to stay in your current situation and just spin your wheels. No one is coming to save Leon or any other homeless person, they have to make changes for themselves. That's a sad statement, but it's the truth, and when I told Leon that, his entire demeanor changed. I think hearing it from someone on the outside looking in may have helped him realize that he has to stop blaming others and make the changes happen himself.
We all have choices, even if they're not great options, we all have the freedom to choose which way we want to head in life. Some choices have a higher risk of failure, and some choices give us a better chance to succeed. If you want things to change in your life, just change them. Changing your daily habits, changing the people you hangout with, changing the foods you choose to eat, changing the way you see yourself in your own mind, and changing how you spend most of your time will lead you to what you're looking for. Don't wait around and hope that someones coming to change you or save you, because they aren't coming, you have to do it yourself!