Last Christmas.


christmas 3Decorated hall at the shelter (pic could be a year old)

Last Christmas, I was fortunate enough to be in a role, where I had the entire Christmas break off. I decided to do something different. I volunteered at Caring at Christmas; a local organization, which houses about 80 homeless people from December 24th – Jan 1st, on a 24/7 basis. They have access to free food all day, manicures, haircuts, board games, pool, clothing, television, massage, dentists, doctor visits, chiropodist, the works. During the year, a smaller numbers are offered a bed, and food for the night. Rules stipulate, they must leave the next morning. Caring at Christmas is also open to others during the day. Anyone is welcomed to stop in, and help themselves to anything on offer.

During induction, we were made aware, that anyone at anytime can be homeless. Some of the people who frequent the shelter, once served in the armed services, held good jobs. You might be talking to a former engineer, teacher, civil servant etc. Chances are, we might be the only ones who bothered to sit, and have a chat with them all year. The Christmas season is the only time the majority of guests had a warm place to sleep, and food all day.

As much as I wanted to, a recent back injury prevented me from being at the shelter every day. I went as often as I could though. What an AMAZING experience! I didn’t know what to expect, but realized very shortly, how grateful I was to be able to do this. Naturally, I wanted to commit the experience, and the people whose paths crossed mine, to memory. Permit me to introduce you to a few of the people I met (names have been changed).

On my first shift, I met John. A fellow islander, he eagerly entertained me with card tricks. He told me how he had spent time in prison. His mom was suffering from terminal cancer. In a matter of fact way, he recounted the struggles he faced. I was impressed with his commitment to just keep going. I also spent time with John and Richard, who invited me to play several rounds of table tennis. John was very matter of fact in giving me hints, and tips on ball movement, paddle handling. The fact that I hadn’t played since I was a teenager? None issue.

Terry moved to Bristol a few years ago from London. He was well dressed, and well spoken. By all accounts, life was good in London. What led to the move, I didn’t know, and didn’t ask. He wasn’t interested in participating in the games, or activities. Terry was content to sit, and observe. He complained about not getting enough sleep at night. Apparently, some of the other guests stayed up all night! He had no choice though, he needed to eat.

Sandra had just moved to Britain from Spain. She was staying in a rundown hotel. One of my duties was to keep the clothes table tidy, and assists the guests with any items they needed. She had one request; a towel. Apparently, the ones at the hotel were flimsy, and not always clean. I gave her two. Wished that I could give more. The look on her face when she received the one item she asked, for will always stay with me.

Graham, he lived in a small town outside Bristol. He was nursing a broken ankle. His monthly benefit money wouldn’t come in until January. Every single day, he walked 5 hours to the shelter, because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t eat. He didn’t have money for bus fare. I struck up a quick rapport with him. Graham is tenacious. Carrying on, doing what needs to be done.

Sam was only interested in putting puzzle pieces together. We spent hours chatting over a 1000 piece. He didn’t share much about himself. So we kept to neutral, everyday topics. Time, naturally flew by. His thing was puzzles. No games, no television. Nothing. Just puzzles. And the company, of anyone who wanted to help him put them together.

Keith was a total character. A man with more than 5 City & Guilds qualifications to his name. We shared a mutual interest in pottery. Keith was the resident scrabble champion. He continually boasted about this to anyone within ear shot. One day, I put the word out, that I would challenge him. The next day, another player joined us. Come to find out, Keith had a habit of making up his own words. I came in second. I won’t forget this fellow. Keith, you’ve made an impression. May God bless you!

I could go on and on. Sometimes, I think my life is hard. The struggles, too great. I want to give up. Just like you. Then I volunteered last Christmas. I will not forget this experience, for as long as I walk the earth. I realised, I have more than I can possibly need. Before hand, I had asked some of my friends to donate unwanted clothing, and other donations. The second I place them on the table, hands came out of nowhere and swiped them away. One man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure. Thank you to Leanne B and Sylvia K. for coming through in time, and those who promised to do so later.

I will be back this year.
Until the next post,

Juan

Till We Meet….


2532988Mere days ago (19.03.14) we lost our beloved cousin Elroy Cornelius Morris. Elroy was in the second year of his theology studies at Bethel Bible College in Jamaica. My sister’s Alma Mater. He was excelling academically. A  favourite among his peers. Deeply loved by those who knew him. Everyone was in a state of shock. Still is. Many were praying for his return. Pleading with God for a miracle. For him to be a modern day Lazarus.

Elroy’s death affected me. And of course, more so, his immediate family. I still remember his first day home from the hospital. In the months and years to follow, I baby sat and fed him, changed his diaper, watched him grow up. In Christmas of 2010, I made my first visit back home in many years.  Totally delighted to see how he had blossomed into such a great young man. My cousin’s firstborn.

I had a chance to speak to his mom the day after his passing. Captivated as I  listened to her recount his final moments on earth. We laughed and cried, as we reminisced about his childhood. I can’t fathom her pain. Although devastated, she kept repeating she was comforted by the fact, he died in Christ. His life was an example to everyone. We spoke of his last moments, and I felt as if I was a bystander, as she described the events to me.

Death reminds us of our own mortality. The preciousness of life. And things we need to do. Today, I came across a quote from the Happier Face book group, in simple, beautiful words: “Life is short. Collect experiences”.  Indeed, we are too busy collecting other things. Better jobs. More money. Nice houses. Expensive Clothes. Fake friends. Things we cannot take with us. Things that no longer matter to my sweet and precious cousin. Never did. If I am honest.

On March 20th, I posted these words on his Facebook page : RIP cousin. Having a terrible time grasping the fact you’re no longer with us. Just spoke with your mom. Learned of your final moments. So many have been touched by you, and your example. You are free from all pain and suffering. The work God has for you couldn’t be done by anyone else. Rest safe in his arms. Till we meet again.

No one dies in vain. There is always a lesson behind losing someone so young. With so much more to offer. I love you. Will miss your spirit. Wont ever forget your influence. Thank you for the time you spent with us. The memories we collected. The hearts you touched.Till we meet again. Rest in Peace.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

The Now.


how-to-live-in-the-moment-plitvice-waterfallWe live in a fascinating age. Have access to unprecedented methods of technology. So, its incomprehensible to watch reports indicating Boeing 777- 200 ER, carrying 200+ passengers and crew, has vanished. Literally. On March 8th, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 departed from Malaysia bound for China. However, shortly after take-off, air traffic controllers lost contact with the jet. It’s been more than 48hrs and counting. The barrage of conspiracy theories is in full swing.

For history purposes, read the story here. I won’t dwell on this too much. Too disturbing. I’m not a good flyer. Between take off, and cruising, I am a bundle of nerves. So, I can’t begin to imagine the pain of family members and loved ones. Not knowing. Waiting. Hoping. Praying. But as time goes on. You begin to lose hope.

Once again, I’m reminded, not to procrastinate. It’s incredibly easy, but counterproductive to look back on mistakes. Spend time berating yourself, with the what if’s. Recently, I have made my fair share. However, I am painfully aware the past has nothing new to say. Does it? In the face of incredible difficulties, it’s even harder to press on. Oh, you can get lost in the judgements being meted out. But, we have to move on. Enjoy life. Even with the knowledge we might have to learn the same lessons. Time and again. Until we get it.

Today, I intend to live. Grab the moments. As Gandhi once said: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever”. I reaffirm my commitment to do just that. Because tomorrow. Is not promised to anyone.  I tend to worry. A lot . Perhaps a bit too much. My younger sister recently told me: “You’re worried about something that is so far away. Live in the NOW”. Thank you Hannah.

Today, right now. In light of everything that’s happening around us. I hope we realise what a blessing it is to be alive. To be here at this time. Live. Love. Laugh. Forgive. Move on. Be happy.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

It’s Been Three Years!


keep-calm-coz-its-my-birthday-3-years-today-2I vividly remember how it started. Sat in my dorm at Essex uni. Reviewing the day’s lecture notes. Inspiration struck. And here I am. Blogging three years on. So much has happened. Still happening.

This post is simple. Brief. And to the point. Thank you! My supporters. Friends. Followers. Passers-by. The curious onlookers. Whoever you may be. Thanks you for visiting. And taking time to read. I haven’t always gotten it right. Perhaps I never will. But its onwards and upwards.

Curious to see where the year takes me. Life is beautiful, isn’t it? Yes, we can whine and moan about our lot in life. Or we can just get on with it. There is great joy to be found. I hope you find yours. Soon. Because “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you”

Amendment 28.03.2014 : my three year mark was actually yesterday! Had to double check. Whoop sees 🙂

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

One More Day!


OneMoreDayOLTwo days. That’s all it took. To change the life of a person I adore. On Thursday, my friend learned her father had terminal cancer. The next day doctors delivered even more grave news. His condition had deteriorated so badly, and he had days to live. My heart ached for her. The journey would take 12 hours. He couldn’t even speak anymore. She left with a heavy heart. Hoping to make it to his bedside. Before he passed away. Like me, she met her father very late in life.

I began thinking about my own personal circumstances. A father I never knew. Until two years ago. To be honest. I think it was too late for us. Perhaps, if we met a decade or two ago, things might be different. The damage has been done. I know there is a lot for me to forgive. And so I shall. It’s a start.

I thought about what I would do. If I only had days to live. Then I remembered, a piece from my first published anthology of poems. One More Day. I hope it offers insight. No matter where you are in life.

If we knew that we had one more day on earth, would we…

Love with more passion?

Listen more attentively?

Hug our loved ones tighter?

Laugh until it hurts?

Smile a tad bit wider?

Touch more gently?

Kiss as if it will be your last?

Talk a lot less and listen more?

Forgive wrongdoings more quickly?

Walk with a spring in our step?

Spend more time with the ones you love?

Leave work at work?

Sweat the small stuff?

Tell them how much you truly love them?

Stop to smell the flowers?

Play in the rain, just once more?

Take a moonlight stroll on the beach?

Turn off the television and read a bedtime story to your child?

Pray together as a family?

Give away all your possessions, just to have one more day?

Appreciate nature?

Give thanks for all that you have?

Yield to someone in traffic?

Give to the beggar on the street?

Volunteer at your favourite charity?

Make someone’s wish come true?

Be a big brother or big sister to an underprivileged child?

Stop by the local food kitchen and ask how you can help?

Handwrite a letter to your mom?

Dance, really, like no one is watching?

Befriend the office outcast?

Pray longer tonight?

Make breakfast in bed for your spouse?

Take the day off work to spend with the family?

Spend a few hours at the local humane society?

Treat this Christmas as if it was your last?

Quit complaining as much?

Say: “I’m sorry,” even though you did nothing wrong?

Drive hours to see a friend who is hospitalized?

Give up your seat on the bus?

Look at your glass as half empty or half full?

Would you…?

In short, make time for the things that really, truly matter. Tomorrow is promised to no one.

Juan Williams (2009)

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

Question Is….


the-question-is

Have you had enough? Why do we allow the same people to hurt us, over and over? How many more offenses will we forgive? How long will we allow them to run amok, creating distress in our lives?

Not yet. Is the subconscious thought. They are actually great in other areas. I bet. There will be at least one more offense to forgive. One more distressing episode. One more…That is. Until. We wake up one day. Look in the mirror. And say: “today is the first day of the rest of my life”.

Oh. Friends and family will try to convince us. Remind us. Force us.To see the truth. Want better for ourselves. Wake up. Yep. All good. But. Until we’re ready. To accept the truth. To realise. Nothing will change until we do. Only then. We will know. When we’ve had enough.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

How Much?!


money-can-t-buy-happiness

Question. Well. Actually a few. How much is enough? Money. That is. How much. Will it take to make you happy? If you’re a two income household. And circumstances dictated you live on one. Your life would change. But. In what way? Would it seriously affect the relationship you have with your spouse? Children? Of course. The knee jerk reaction is. It shouldn’t. But it can. Depends. On how much it matters to you.

I don’t believe. I am alone. When I say. I  can be happy with or without it. I don’t reside on Fool’s Paradise Lane. We need it to live. However. To make the pursuit of having more. And more. Is not something I obsess over. This doesn’t mean I set myself above those who chose to. But. It means I have learned  to be happy. Either way. I have never had enough . So. I made a decision to get on with it.

When you grew up in a single parent home. And your needs always took second place over a bill. Food. Etc. Your outlook changes. It’s different. And sometimes. Not very popular. When you get teased by your peers , because the shoes you wear to school, are so worn out, there are holes in the soles. You adjust. When you go to school hungry. Hoping your friends share their lunch with you. You learn. To make do. With what you have. Or don’t.

I get bored. Out of my skin. And tune out nine out of ten times. When people go on and on. About what they would do if they had more money. Or how much different. And better. Their lives would be. If only. They made more. I have also entertained such thoughts. And idle conversation. Until I realized. How much time. I was wasting. At the risk of sounding cynical. Why wait until we have enough? Why not. Do the best we can. With what we have? Waiting is not living. It’s existing. Sounds like a prison. In and of itself.

“Money is the root of all evil”. “Anyone who tells you money can’t buy happiness, doesn’t know where to shop”. “Money can’t buy happiness, but it’s a lot easier to cry in a BMW than a bicycle”. Yep. Heard them all. Haven’t you? In response, I say. Count your blessings. Not the zeros. Or lack of it. In your bank account. Count the things. Money cant buy. Friendships. People who love you. Feeling loved. Cherished. Respected. Character. Happiness. Talent. Peace. Things we sometimes lose. In pursuit. Of the mighty dollar. Have you ever made a list of things money can’t buy? Do it. I hope these made the list.

There is nothing wrong. With wanting good things in life. It’s human nature. But. When it takes over your life. Becomes all you think about. When you hardly see your family and friends . Constantly bring home work with you. If daycare. Or the tele. Is raising your kids. Because both parents feel the need to work. Or if you never have anytime for yourself. And find yourself constantly harping. On how busy your schedule is. Etc. Tell me. How is it working for you?

It’s not my intention to offend. Judge. Or belittle anyone’s choices. Everyone has a unique situation. The aim behind this post. Is to encourage us to reëxamine. The focus of our energies . To think about redirecting some of it. Into living a more fulfilled life. Where having more money. Is not the epicenter. Of everything we do. Live. And breathe. I hope. You and I don’t “wake up” decades from now. And regret. Not spending more time doing the things we like. With the people we love. Because. We were too busy. Trying to add to the bank balance.

I invite. No. Challenge you. To look up the top five deathbed wishes. See. If what you’re working so hard for. Will have you whispering these things. When it’s your time. To return home. So. I will end. With the question I started with. How much is enough?

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan