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.