Suzanne

Long Walk Home

My Activity Tracking

26
kms

My target 28 kms

Inspiration 3) The cashmere jumper

We hit hard times when we were in Melbourne - not "living rough" hard times, but we had to go from a large three bedroom 2 story townhouse to a one bedroom apartment on a main road. We went from two good incomes to one small income. I sold my car to give my step son a really cool wedding gift. And I reduced my ridiculous overstocked multiple wardrobes to a single hanging space not much wider than a ruler. Hey, these things happen. We managed. They weren't too hard compared to what so many others go through. And I knew things would get better. Eventually.

The office I worked in overlooked a tiny carpark that led into a supermarket and small mall. One day a young couple moved in. Using shopping trolleys for their possessions and a tarp for cover, they set up home. 

I called my husband and asked him to bring some of our clothes when he came to pick me up from work, including a jumper (I had, due to lack of space, reduced my overload of jumpers of every imaginable colour to just three, so there wasn't a large choice). I hadn't however been any more specific than that, so you can imagine how I felt when I realised he had brought the only decent jumper I had kept ... a much loved cashmere. 

She did need it more than I did though, so with some selfish sadness in my heart I gave them everything my kind hearted husband had brought with him, including the jumper. Whenever I went shopping I bought them a bag of groceries too, and I got used to seeing my beautiful jumper on her. It was confronting ... I learned that to me it was a treasured material possession, to her it was essential to keeping warm. When you donate clothes to a charity you know that they sometimes end up being worn by people who are really down on their luck, but you don't often get to see that part of the cycle. It's just a feel good action without the harsh reality of the life of those who get to wear it next. 

She was delighted when she saw it and loved it - which was a nice bonus. She once told me she felt really pretty in it, and I loved that it gave her that confidence. 

As I got to know this couple - John and Lisa, I developed this romantic story in my mind - I started asking around to see if I could find them work, and kept thinking how, one day, they would be in a house and this would be just a memory of bad times for them. Maybe a little daughter or son on her lap ... 

My husband pointed out that they had some of the signs of drug addiction and that maybe it wouldn't be like that and I should be realistic, but I wasn't having a bar of it. My story was the only story I was going to believe in.

Then one morning as I arrived to work I saw John slinking away around the corner - he didn't look up, but moved a little faster when I called his name. When I got to the car park there was an ambulance, and two police women. One of the ambulance officers was cutting the sleeve of that much loved jumper so he could put something in her veins. She had overdosed.

I watched her being loaded in the ambulance, the destroyed jumper hanging limply over the side of the stretcher. Between the time they took her away and the time I could get 5 minutes out of work to check on John, everything was gone from the car park. A local social worker commented that he would have made a quick exit now that the police knew that they had been staying there. I was devastated. It seemed so unfair - that wasn't how it was supposed to go.

So no happy ever after and no rags to riches. But a great lesson - or three. 1) Do what you can. But don't be arrogant and think you can fix the problems of the world, or make judgements, even if they are with the best of intentions. 2) we are all alike inside and we can always find common ground - for Lisa and I it was a cashmere jumper and feeling good - forgetting for a little while that at this point in time life isn't quite what you expected it to be. 3) Don't put off actions - it's today that counts because you just don't know what tomorrow will be.

So this walk is also for Lisa and John and the lessons of a cashmere jumper. 

Inspiration 2) Cardboard Boxes

I will never think of cardboxes in the same way after meeting a kiwi brother and his sister on the streets of Melbourne. 

She was so young, and scared, retreating as far as she could into the box, wide eyes staring at her brother who watched over her protectively. She barely moved or blinked while we chatted to him, and my heart went out to her. As we pressed whatever money we had in our wallets into his hands, told him of a cafe up the street that could give them food, and said our goodbyes, I don't think she realised what a huge impact she had made on our lives, and how a simple cardboard box had become, for us, no longer something a child could turn into a cubby house, but a vital piece of protection. 

I desperately hope things got better for them, that others also stopped to give what they could, and that she is now somewhere safe with a roof over her head and a meal when she is hungry. 

My inspirations. 1) Graham

No fancy joggers, just sandshoes, but it's a whole lot more than many of the homeless have on their feet so I'm pretty lucky. 

When we lived in Melbourne we spent a lot of time on the city streets chatting with the homeless, buying them a coffee or a meal and getting to know them. I considered quite a few of them my friends. 

One man was named Graham - he had cerebral palsy so struggled with many of the things we take for granted. Can you imagine having cerebral palsy AND sleeping rough? 

When we moved to Mongarlowe in NSW, we asked Graham if he would like to come with us - we had no hesitation in inviting him into our home and understood the responsibility we were taking on, but we wanted to do it anyway. 

Graham declined - as terrible as his life was, and as much as he appreciated the offer, he didn't want to leave the only place he had ever known. 

I totally understand that, but it was heartbreaking to leave him behind not knowing if we would see him again. With covid and so much that has happened since then, and knowing how poor his health was, I hope he is still there and ok, but know he's probably gone. 

Graham is one of the people I am doing this walk for. 

Join me

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm not big on exercise. And by not big on exercise, I mean, I am REALLY bad at it. 

But this is a really important cause. So many people are at-risk, living rough, feeling isolated and carrying around the black dog. These people are someone's brother, father, sister, mother ...they are the people who served our country and the people who had a good life until something went terribly wrong. They are our family, our community, our friends we haven't yet met. They are important.

So even though I consider myself a sloth, this is something I really have to do.

So,  I've dusted off my joggers (there was a LOT of dust on them!).  I might even get in some practice beforehand. After all, it is a beautiful part of the world here in the Mongarlowe Valley, and you never know what you will see. 

And with each step of those 28kms, I am going to focus on all the amazing people I have met, and I am still to meet, who walk 28kms each week, not because they want to but because they have to, and how Wagging Tails Community can learn from leaders like John Owen from the Wayside Chapel so that we too can make a difference. 

If you have found you way to this page, and you have a few dollars to spare, we'd love your sponsorship. But if money is tight at the moment, as it is for a lot of us, joining is free and we would love to have you as part of our Wagging Tails Community Team.

My Achievements

Thank you to my Sponsors

$312

Suzanne Gearing

$260

Anonymous

Thank you for your noble deeds. We are touched reading your writeup about the disadvantaged. My small gesture. Eliza

$150

Timothy Gearing

$133.12

Anonymous

Great work !

$100

Anonymous

we love the inspiration x Jules

$100

Matched Giving

$52

Anonymous

You go girl ... love your leadership style

$52

Matched Giving

$26

Julie Cedars