3 Tools For Happiness I’ve Learned From Working with those Experiencing Homelessness

It’s fairly difficult to feel sorry for yourself when you work with people struggling on the streets. Every day we hear stories of abuse, rape, hunger, and most of all loneliness.

I’ve often wondered how those I’ve had the opportunity to work with find the strength to survive. How do they wake up every morning and keep going? Where do they find their hope?

The first lesson I’ve learned from our homeless community is to have gratitude for the small things. Whether it may be a friendly smile, a sandwich or a warm coat- I’m always amazed at how appreciative many are for the items I forget I even have. A participant once said to me, “If I lose my gratitude, I lose my hope”. Those wise words came from a man whose lived outside for three years after being thrown out of his home for being gay. His spirit of gratitude in mind blowing. If he can be grateful, I can too.

The second lesson is that life is constantly changing and we really can only control our attitude. How do you remain who you are when you can’t control where you live? I find that even if I’m ten minutes late from traffic, my mood turns frantic and anxious. If I don’t have a plan, I feel chaotic and sometimes shut down. An elderly woman in a wheel chair who sleeps outside once told me that she “isn’t in control of the world but she controls her smile”. Just thinking of her makes me grin. The strength it takes to survive isn’t just about what happens to us, it’s how we receive the experience. We always have control of just that one thing, our attitude.

Asking for help takes a great amount of courage. Many times, our participants are told no. No they can’t use the restroom, no they can’t have a bed, no, no, no. How does someone have the courage to ask for help when so many people have turned their backs on them? I have a problem asking for help with even simple tasks like lifting boxes! Yet we all need help, we all have a time in our life where we need support.

I’ve learned that a spirit of gratitude, controlling my attitude and asking for help are three essential tools for happiness in this crazy world.