I sit with Calvin today, he seems nervous about our chat. He contacted me to talk as he heard I was about to write a series of blog posts about people from the Downtown Eastside. He says he wants to make a difference now, tell his story and encourage others to not make the same mistakes he did. He feels they are mistakes but then back tracks and says.."no - not mistakes.. lessons.. I learned lessons.. hard ones". Calvin has given full consent to use his name and photo in this blog post.
Calvin is 50 years old and has been on the streets for most of his life. He no longer lives on the streets and works labour jobs to get by.. Honest jobs he says.
His first prison sentence was when he was 13 years old and he has been in and out of prison for most of his life. The longest sentence : 18 years.
His life on the streets & battling various drug addictions: 38 years.
As he talks, his authentic self shines through...
He talks with such conviction, telling me about the horrors he has witnessed and what he has seen in his life. Then he tells me the story of his twin daughter who was murdered when she was 21 , he often goes and visits her grave.. his eyes full of sadness and voice quivering .. trying not to break down as he recounts the story. It was then he realized... there has to be a better way.. there has to be something else to this life. He says he had a lot of time to think as well in prison... "you come to a point where you are sick and tired of being sick and tired". When he had his first grandchild (from his remaining twin daughter) - a true miracle right in front of his eyes..he realized "No.. my grandchild will not live the same way I did.. he will have a better life.. he will get an education and have a good life". With the miracle of his grandson's birth.. came the miracle of Calvin's realization and a conscious decision:
"I AM GOING TO MAKE A CHANGE !
At least not for myself, for my grandson".. he stands up as he says this.. remembering the pledge he made 6 years ago.
I ask Calvin a few questions before our chat ends..
Joy: What message would you give to a younger you?
Calvin: Patience & Perseverance... you have to have patience.. patience with yourself, patience with others..patience with God's plan.. when you have patience you will persevere and get through what you need to get through. Fighting addictions.. you have to be patient with yourself. I learned the hard way.. I learned the tough way.. don't walk down my path.. have patience.. persevere... patience. I still have to work through my stuff.. everyday it comes up and I just have to work through it.
Joy: What message do you have for people who are fighting addictions and living on the streets?
Calvin: I am going to give you my advice.. I am no expert, I haven't even completed elementary school but this is what I think.. I am just a child of the Divine Mother.. thats all.. just a soul here to complete my journey.
Calvin's Top 10 List of Lessons:
1. Never beat yourself up when you fall.
2. Learn from your mistakes and move on.. don't keep thinking of them.
3. Once you make that decision to change your life.. change it.. don't back track.. just keep going forward..don't even look back.. you don't have time to look back.. keep going"
4. Get an education
5. It's a long road.. have patience.. only then you can persevere.
6. Change.. or just slowly Die.. thats your decision.
7. Work honest
8. Accept help from other's.. don't be stubborn about it.
9. Before you react....before you decide to do anything impulsive, take a moment - a minute - breathe - and then act. Never act before taking a minute to yourself.
10. Just breathe man.. you got one life..
Joy: How do you practice mindfulness during your day?
Calvin: I breathe
Joy: How do you connect with your inner Joy?
Calvin: My grandson.. watching him play, eat, sleep.. just being with him.. he is my Joy.
I am reminded of Mastin Kipp's quote "The patient path is the fastest way.." and the famous poem by Yogi Bhajan: Patience Pays.. Youtube links can be found at the bottom of this post.
As he shakes my hand.. I fold my hands and bow to him.. to his inner Divine wisdom and to his authentic self. A soul who consciously decided to come into being as Calvin.. a soul here to learn such profound lessons through such hardships and challenges... a soul.. who is really just another version of me and you...
With gratitude & love..