I have seen many different sides of the homeless experience. I would still be that way today if it weren’t for the assistance of a few wonderful people who gave me the support structure that I needed to get a job and eventually get my own house. While not everyone is going to be as blessed as I was, I do think that there are things that people can learn from my experience, and I hope to pass those on to individuals who have found themselves in similar circumstances. One of my best tips is going to the thrift store.
There is one in every neighborhood, each laden with a vast array of gently used items that can be recycled with love and care. I have repurposed numerous things, but recently one of my favorites is a colorful beach umbrella from Just Beach Things. Nothing marred its surface and not a tear in site, so I knew it had a lot of life left for trips to the beach. I often dream of a short vacation at the shore. I see myself driving along the coastal highway with the umbrella ensconced in the trunk, ready to pop open and protect me from the glaring rays of the sun. While I was outdoors a lot of the time day and night as a homeless person, I now relish some fresh air and a cloud-enhanced blue sky. It is certainly a different experience when it is by choice. As a survivor, my fantasies can easily become reality if I am resourceful. The thrift shop sure helps. I get furniture and fixtures galore so that I can save enough for that trip to the beach on an extended basis. I allow myself to daydream a little and it is a new experience.
I see the umbrella spread its shade over my matching towel as I sit and watch the crashing waves. Kids are splashing about in the shallow waters, some eagerly seeking souvenir shells. I delight in the dogs that follow their owners, prancing behind and avoiding the foam. Sometimes they stop and sniff at something creepy and I don’t want to know what it is! Beaches are great for people and animal watching and interesting things are bound to happen. I have seen umbrellas blow over and sunbathers turn to red crisps. Swimmers explore the coves and surfers wait for the big one which seldom happens. I love it all.
When the time comes to pack up and go home, I am a little sad. There is nothing as relaxing and invigorating as a day in the sun. You get more than some much-needed vitamin D; your spirit is expansive as the vista before you. My budget umbrella is a witness to the realization of my dreams. Like me, it doesn’t want to fold up and go back to real life. It fills at its best in the natural elements of sand and water.