Robert Kinghorn's friend shares her story of homelessness and gratitude for finally having a home this Christmas. Creative Commons

The Church on the street: A gift of thanks on Christmas morn

  • December 24, 2017
Unless you have been homeless, as Mary and Joseph were on that first Christmas, it is difficult to understand the deep peace a roof over your head can bring.

For 14 years my friend experienced homelessness in our city, and so I will hand this column over to her as she explains how it felt to be “home” for Christmas:

My first Christmas in my own home for many years, and my first Christmas tree. Where should I put it?

Maybe I should be totally different and place it in my bathroom. It’s nice being able to do whatever I want to do. Do I want to awaken on Christmas morning in my own home, or do I want to please others and wake up in my mother’s home as she wants?

Deep down I know I want to awaken in my own apartment and revel in the blessings I have received throughout this past year. I have experienced drastic changes and I think the greatest of these is finally regaining my personal space.

I am astonished at all the things I have accomplished in the last two years now that I am clean. I guess what I am really trying to do is to make up for all the years I wasted on drugs and yet, through all the struggle and heartache, I recently arrived at a significant revelation that clearly came from God.

Part of my struggle since my last relapse was an inner turmoil. I had so much in life, I was always strong despite the terrible events in my childhood and I was a fighter who never gave up.

So why did I decide one day that life would be better wandering around aimlessly on the streets, cold, wet and lonely? Sleeping outside, when despite the number of covers I had on I could never get warm. Always hungry, even though I knew that I could turn a trick to get money.

How did this happen? I had already come to terms that God didn’t let it happen, I did, but I struggled to understand why.

Then I was asked to share my story at a meeting place called Dismas. The great comfort of God’s presence in this house of worship and the presence of God’s people circled around me — Pastor Jan from my church on one side and Deacon Robert’s wife Ria on the other — let my story flow fluently.

I revealed events and situations that I had totally suppressed and had never disclosed before. The next morning, I was standing on my balcony having my morning coffee when suddenly the realization came to me that I know God is in my life and always has been.

A lot of terrible things occurred in the first 20 years of my life, but there are also many cherished memories and accomplishments that I was proud of. Even through the turmoil of the next decade of my life I had many beautiful moments. I had a husband, children, cars, trucks, businesses, friends, family gatherings, beautiful homes and a farm house which allowed me to accomplish my dream of being a farmer.

I realized that I had so many opportunities in life and that I did not get into the crazy part of my lifestyle until my mid-30s, and so I could now help other women who have been involved in drugs and selling their bodies from the time they were 10 years old.

If I had not allowed myself to step out of the comfort of my life and walk the path of sharing in some of their pain and turmoil here on Earth, how would I truly be able to succeed in encouraging anyone to believe that there is a better way? How would I ever be able to say to them, “Life is worth living and is very beautiful so don’t be afraid? I will lead you, just follow and I will guide you.”

So I thank God that I could not only experience that seedy side of life, but also endure it so that people who meet me know that God can work through them as God has worked in my life. This was my revelation.

Now that I think of it, I will put my Christmas tree right in the middle of my living room so that I can admire it on Christmas morning in my very own home on the birthday of Christ. It is my gift to Him for bringing to light all these changes in my life.

(Kinghorn is a deacon of the Archdiocese of Toronto:

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