Ah, yes: the friends and family. Here’s what happens when you tell your friends or family that you’re homeless: they always respond with something like “Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear that! Hang in there!” What they won’t do when you tell them you lost everything: they won’t freak out and offer you a place to stay. They won’t offer money. In fact, it’s most likely that they will, after expressing their deep sorrow over what happened to you, completely disappear from your life. Sometimes, one of them will say something like “sorry your life sucks, but don’t blame it on me” or “Oh, poop. Well, stay in touch!”
I’m sure I can guess what you’re thinking about this one. It’s the same thing I would think if someone told me this same story. I would think to myself that this person must not be a very good person/friend/sister in order to evoke that kind of reaction from their “friends.” I might even be right in assuming something like that. I’m the first person to admit that during the last year of my life before tragedy struck, I was a bit self-involved. I was fighting to keep my business going amid the gossip-mill that was brewing about a certain incident involving a competitor, as well as experiencing great inner turmoil about the direction I was going in all matters of business and in life. I was self-absorbed, yes, but I was also acutely aware of that and trying to be better about being there for my friends. In my own defense, I will also say that 99% of my friends are either married with families, or at least have someone to fall back on in the event of tragedy. I don’t have that luxury, so I had to work extra hard to never stumble or make any fatal mistakes. So, self-absorbed I was. I was also trying to make an awful lot of people happy within the existing business, to start a new business, and the need to be alone to think in between those moments overshadowed all things social. Nobody on earth could have kept up with all those demands from all those people. Returning that many calls, and responding to that many emails, and still trying to work and have any kind of solitude, just isn’t possible. But each of them will take it personally, and each will think they should be the one whose call you return. They get very upset when they realize that they’re not your #1 priority.
Here’s the lesson I took away from this whole experience, and throughout my entire life: Friendship is not always a two-way street. It should be, and we always think it is. Even when we think we’re a pretty good friend, someone will disagree with us. And even when you think someone is a good friend to you, we can later find out that they are not. We cannot rate or measure how good of a friend someone is to us, based on their ability to help us out of a jam, but we can rate the friendship based on their desire to do so. I know a lot of people want to help me, and truly wish they could, but they just can’t. I also know a ton of people that could very easily help me, but they just don’t want to. What I would say to those people is this: helping someone who is homeless doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give them thousands of dollars so that they could get an apartment. It could mean something much simpler, like a gift certificate for groceries, or a gas card. Or a pair of fucking socks, or a $20 bill. What gets to me is that it doesn’t even occur to 99% of them to even offer. Sadly, this last type is what makes up 99% of my “friends.” I wish them the best, and I truly hope it never happens to them. If it does, I would still help them. Or not.