The phrase has come up twice now: what you don't know. In March of 2010, in an effort to bridge the gap between the homeless and the housed, I asked the women of The Open Door what they'd say to those outside of the shelter if given the chance. What don't they know?
I never thought I'd be in this position.
People say, You don't look like you're homeless. What's homeless supposed to look like? Dirty?
Everybody gives money to Haiti; people get help if they're homeless because of an earthquake or tornado. But it doesn't matter how you became homeless. You're homeless, and you need help.
A guy I know hired me to clean his dad's house. He said, "Don't tell my dad you're homeless or he won't like you." Me and the dad got along great! We had a wonderful time. If I had told him... but it would still be me! I would be the same person as the one he liked.
You're not supposed to judge anybody. Some have more, others have less. You are definitely blessed if you have a home.
Some two and a half years later, I found myself using the same phrase with former prisoners. What you don't know was the only way I could help these men explain how their new lives of freedom were hindered by guilt, blame, deadend job hunts and housing restrictions.
You don't know the sense of complete separation and loneliness that is felt while inside, and at times is carried on once released.
I need others to know and believe I am sorry.
I am new. Come see.
This phrase could come in handy in this new year. Each of us has a back story, and what I don't know does indeed hurt me, or you, if my ignorance prevents us from connecting in a genuine way. My assumptions could carry a cost.
What you don't know about having a child with type 1 diabetes is that I count out goldfish crackers to a broken fin. I wonder, every morning, if Theo will wake up conscious. I worry I'll badly miscalculate a dose, or that Greg will, and that I'll be angry with him for something I could have just as easily done. I fear that my absent-minded boy won't grow out of his dreaminess, and will have trouble managing his disease on his own when he's older. What you don't know is that Greg and I have few dates because we haven't yet trained a sitter to give shots. And that diabetes is all day, every day, and it gets easier, but it's hard, very hard.
Your turn. Tell me: I want to know.