A Lesson In Humility.

While driving to church in downtown Detroit, I was already running late. I had been up late the night before so I was really tired and need a coffee. I passed the Starbucks, I passed Tim Horton’s, and I knew there was coffee at church. Although I was running late, I really wanted a spiced mocha from Great Lakes coffee on Woodward in Detroit. As I went out of my way and through construction traffic to get there, I had this feeling of being too much of a coffee elitist this morning. I kept telling myself, “why are you going out of your way to be late to church just to get a fancy coffee?” I justified in saying that it’s been a while since I’ve been to this coffee shop and I really wanted one. Although coffee is offered at church and I would’ve been perfectly fine with that I stuck with my guns and I went to get this latte. I passed many homeless people who were happy to just get any hot beverage this 25 degree morning. The thought of spending six dollars on this 8oz latte with such poverty around me didn’t phase me today, because I kept thinking, I buy dinner for homeless people all the time and I always give back -so today I’m gonna take care of me……..

When I got to church I walked in late and I sat in the back. I set my fancy latte down on the ledge in front of my chair. I took off my coat and I was excited to finally sit and drink my latte!! … Before I could go reach for it, three girls that walked in behind me walked past to find a seat and as they walked past one of the girls purses knocked over by a drink without even realizing it. It spilled all over the floor in front of the seats. I was dumbfounded. Part of me said, “did this really happen?” My friend sitting next to me busted out laughing. That’s all I could do at this point.. We just laughed. When I went to stand up to clean it up and go get napkins she put her hand on my leg and said “I got this.” Mind you, she is in a walking boot with a cast and is supposed to be staying off her feet. But she stepped over the railing went out to get napkins. She came back to the auditorium and cleaned it up so that I didn’t have to. That was quite the lesson for me in many ways. That servant style leadership shown is something to be admired. I took a few things from that today: 1- if your conscience is making you feel a certain way, listen to it because what’s going to happen is going to happen and we don’t always understand why. 2-The perspective of the girl who knocked over my coffee and had no idea, we don’t understand how little things in our life affects those around us. We go on about our day not knowing who we even affected negative or positive. It’s crucial to remember in life with everything you do. 3-there is no use crying over spilled milk, or coffee.

Homeless in Detroit

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This homeless guy was sitting inside a restaurant in Greektown and people inside the restaurant called the police on him for being there. Cops responded and removed him from the facility. I asked the people that were sitting next to him why they called the police. They said ” he smelled bad and he is homeless, I don’t want to deal with that while I am eating my dessert.” I can understand that point…to an extent….. What was unique about the situation was that the police officer went back in and bought the guy a coffee and brought it out to him. Then he proceeded to tell the man that he hopes he does better in life and makes better choices. My friend went up and asked the guy his name and prayed over him. He was very thankful and said that nobody has done that for him before and that nobody even cares what his name is. Homeless people are people too…..they are human beings. They may struggle with addiction many times, but we all have our own struggles that aren’t as obvious.  We were meant to love people and not judge them. It is unrealistic (and a bad idea) to give cash to every homeless person that you see on the street. It is a good thing to make eye contact and acknowledge them as a person instead of walking past to avoid the begging question we all expect.

Ive lived on the streets, I know the routine. My family comes from the inner city, so I can boldly say- It is NOT wise to give a homeless person money “for the bus” or “for groceries” or whatever the story may be.  You are doing more HARM than good. It is better ( yet more time consuming) to walk them into a nearby restaurant and buy them a sandwich or food. If they refuse that- there is your answer….walk away and wish them the best…they have choices to make in life as well. You cant save everyone..but you can love people and change the world one life at a time.

Detroit- A broken city on the rise…but its still a city

photo-37Detroit walk- I am without a vehicle this week so I have been walking around the Downtown Detroit today to get place to place. As I was walking down near a street of abandoned buildings this was the experience I had with a homeless man following behind me on my walk past Cass park towards Woodward Ave. =

Man- Hey mam, do you have any money for the bus so I can get to a shelter

Me: Where are you trying to go

Man: Oh, this place near Woodward and Selden

Me: Oh, great I know exactly where that is at, I will walk with you over there, you don’t need a bus. it is less than a mile. I am going that way anyway.

Man: Well, actually can I have some change for food then?

Me: I won’t give you cash, but I will walk with you and buy you food from that corner store when we walk past it

Man: No No No, can I just have you then pretty girl? I could make you feel real good!  ( he walks towards the sidewalk closer to me)

Me: Our conversation is done, I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt, but you cant talk to people like that ( I walk further away from him and start walking in the middle of the street)

Man: (comes right up next to me and puts his hand on my backpack) come on white girl, you know you want some of this black ****!

Me: No, Don’t touch me! ( I pull my bag to the other side of my body and go to the other sidewalk still walking towards my destination, walking faster)

Man: I will give it to you whether you want it or not, get back here white girl and give it to me. Don’t make me come get it now. ( he runs up behind me and grabs my arm)

Me: (I push him away and run down towards Woodward and make it to the turning lane in between traffic and he sees construction workers near me now)

Man: (laughing and yelling) I will be waiting for you beautiful, you gonna get some

Such a lovely stroll through midtown Detroit! Sadly, this is not my first time having to deal with this scenario in the city. I have had this scenario happen in many different ways on most days I am outside in the city. Typically I carry a 9mm and I am a bit less fearful, however, today I was not armed. I had no choice but to walk through this section to get where I needed to go, I didn’t have a vehicle, I could not find a ride, and Uber had no drivers in the area. SO my only choice was to walk. You can easily say, “well, why would you put yourself in that situation” IT WAS 2 pm middle of the day…middle of the city, if you don’t have a vehicle you have no choice but to walk. Many people in the city, young women, teenagers, and students have to get around the city this way everyday. This situation is LIFE.

Unfortunately, in my field of work (Detroit Forensic nurse, specializing in rape and sexual assault victims) I see this scenario played out to the end and the girls usually don’t get away. If they end up living through the assault, most girls that come to me were walking in daylight and pulled into a building or into an alley, in some cases a car pulls up to them on the sidewalk and they are grabbed and pulled into the vehicle and dropped off into a new location before coming to me. THIS IS REAL LIFE. It happens everyday. Luckily today I was able to get out of the situation. He was a 50 year old, 6″, at least 220  lb black male with a leather jacket on. It is SO important when you come to Detroit to experience the excitement of the up and coming city- BE SMART.  Detroit is on the “rise” but it is still a big city, and it is a hurting city. It has the reputation of being the murder and violent crime capital for a reason. That doesn’t change just because the buildings are starting to look artsy and cool.

There is a lot of Hype about Detroit these days. Many people hold to the stigma that Detroit is the murder capital of the world and has the highest crime rate. That cant be argued. That is pure fact. The FBI has released its annual stats for 2015 of major U.S. cities with the highest crime figures. Topping the list — with far and away the worst murder and violent crime rates — is Detroit. However, there are also those that hold to the fact that Detroit is on its way back up. This is true….but it is relative to how far down it already is. There are many investors scooping up properties and improving the facade of the city. This gives the city a great appearance and the hipsters and young professionals moving downtown with their talents and arts make the city sound and look better. That is also a fact.

There is a greater issue at hand that hasn’t been touched on by many. A city is made up of people. You can not change a city without changing the people. The city can be expanded and built up for years and years, but buildings don’t make up the city, the people do. The people of Detroit are hurting. There is a financial need, a spiritual need, and a family structure need. The city has been through years of hurt. The people in the city of Detroit have been “institutionalized” to the way things are. Many of the inhabitants of the city are quite offended at the changes. Many cannot afford to live downtown any more because of the rental price increases. This has created a deep resentment and anger towards those who are moving to the city to build it up. Last year when I lived in Detroit I was persecuted daily for being a “white girl in our city”. I was told to go back to the suburbs and leave their city alone. SOME PEOPLE JUST DON’T WANT HELP.

So much focus is put into the homeless population. In many cases those who are homeless are choosing to be. Sometimes the drugs make the decision for them and many times they just don’t know any different and don’t care to. The culture has been set and most do NOT want “help”- Money, yes they want that…as does anybody- but true help and change is not something that is typically desired and that is what most people miss.

I have spent many years on the streets and I have experienced homelessness. I get it. I understand. My mom worked as a prostitute in Detroit and my father lived in crack houses for much of his life. I have been doing a lot of street and inner city mission work in an attempt to “give back” and help. Unfortunately, all that has showed me is that the current culture of people ” helping the homeless and hurting” in Detroit is flawed. One thing remains- you cant help somebody who wont help themselves. You just can’t. You cant save everyone.

Reslience

Since publishing my book, (Taking Back The Pen- Resiliency Amidst Life’s Predestinated Storyline), many people have asked me where I got my resilience. They have also asked me if I can put into words what it is that makes people resilient. The debate has come up of whether resilience is a trait that a person is born with or if it can be obtained in life.

To start off we need to define RESILIENCE The Mirriam-Webster online dictionary (2010) defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to change or misfortune”. The American heritage online dictionary (2009) defines it as “the ability to recover quickly from illness, depression, change, or misfortune; buoyancy.” These are both great definitions. On a personal level, it is about how we apply these definitions in our lives. I do believe that resiliency is a personality trait as well as a dynamic life process. The ultimate key here is bouncing back and returning to normal life regardless of what happens. The fact that trauma and life changes occur is not what is in question here. We are in an ever-changing world that is full of misfortune. The focus needs to be on what happens after the misfortune. You cannot stay in suffering. Once you move forward past it and you do not let it control your life you have been resilient. The antecedent to resilience is adversity. We will all face the adversity in life. The question is, will we all be able to be RESILIENT?

People who have RESILIENCE as a personality trait will demonstrate effective coping skills master their problems, have positive adaptation and are able to integrate control while adjusting and growing through life events. The key term here is GROWH. When we defeat a trial, we grow as individuals in wisdom and character. Some people CHOOSE To have a depressive mind state when they come in to adverse life events. In any situation we have a choice of how we react. We cant always choose what happens but we can choose our response Resilience has a lot to do with personal choice it stems from ownership of our actions and reactions to life events. We can’t always control our life events but we van control our response. How we interpret the event is key. The events can be either physically, psychologically or emotionally traumatic- sometimes even socially. The cognitive ability to interpret this adversity is found through your worldview. That is a personal thought process. Those with different worldviews respond differently to stressors. It is key to have a high self-expectancy and self-determination and to set goals in life. You need to have positive relationships as an individual. Your social support is key in life. Building community is essential to have a successful life. WHO ARE YOU SURROUNDING YOURSELF WITH?

There are many different groups where we can look at resilience: see where you fall into a category

Children- Building resilience begins as early as childhood. We all started there… Take a glance back to see where your roots began. Many children are born into poverty or have a parent who suffers from mental illness. Many have divorced parents. Some children have a chronic and terminal illness will some suffer from child abuse and neglect. Some children are even born into a homeless family. Resilient children are able to respond diversity by adapting circumstances and can cope and manage these major life problems despite their immeasurable disadvantages in life. It is true and it should be noted that children who have “rough lives” growing up start out with resilience for survival and carry that through later in life. That is why people going through such events are stronger than most. They began to fight these battles early in life. There is a switch in life from surviving to thriving.

Survivors of disasters- In America we have had plenty of disasters in the recent years. Many of these survivors of these disasters were resilient by resolving to live, obtaining food and shelter, maintaining survival strategies, keeping families together and building their community. Social support is CRUCIAL. These people were able to give testimony after they finished the trial. That testimony helps others. Trust in God, family support as well as your friends around you allow you to maintain resilience through these challenges.

Adult population- As we age, health wise, we have a decreased functional status. Our stress level increases, poor living conditions abound and we have faced many negative life events by this time. These changes can be influenced to a more positive outlook by maintaining good quality relationships building community and developing coping strategies. Many people have family support and a large network of friends. The problem comes with broken families that do not have the family support. This population leans more heavily on the friends in the community around them whether it is neighbors or people from church or other social circles. Older adult women and sometimes men have faced sexual abuse either as children or in their early adult years. It is been found that these women have used silence, holding in their thoughts and emotions about it, and internal sense of hope, social support and advocacy and intentional self-care. The biggest attribute here was social support. Those are personal dramatic events that most people don’t know about and the resilience here is internal because the success cannot be physically and publicly weighed against what they have been through in order to fully understand how successful they really are today, compared to where they have been. Many people attribute a spiritual grounding as the main source of help. Having a higher power to lean on that give meaning and purpose of their lives. This is key to purpose and strength of moving forward past adversity

Building Resilience – There are many characteristics of resilient people that can be learned and acquired in life. Having a sense of hope. There’s no such thing as false hope, any hope is a positive thing. Self-efficacy, control (Being able to regain control of the situation and alter the events to the way that you would like them to go), coping, confidence, flexibility, adaptability, sense of coherence, recognizing the skills you possess, and the ability to focus. Cognitive reframing, critical reflection and reconciliation are all strategies to build resilience. THESE ARE ALL ATTAINABLE. So when the question is asked, can anybody obtain resilience or are you born with it? The Answer is, YES, anybody can be resilient, they just have to CHOOSE to be.

The first step is to get back up every time you fall. Nobody will move you forward in life except for yourself, with your own two feet. You can’t fully depend on anybody else. There are social structures that can help you in times of need but community is ever changing. Ultimately you need to move forward on your own and except help when it’s given but when it’s not available be able to handle it on your own. Autonomy! Strength! Resilience!

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