My many blessings of an Australian life in 2017 included a ticket to see the magical stage show of Aladdin, gifted by my daughter Bridget. I was SO excited! My eldest son had been Aladdin in his early school performance which added to my love of Disney creations. What a great gift… and I was not disappointed!! The colour, the musical composition, the backdrops and arrangements, the talented performers….oh it was all breathtaking and without a single doubt a fine, wonderful memory. All with the joy of watching alongside my daughter on a mother/daughter date. Perfection.
We left the venue uplifted and chatty about the characters. The buzz continued around us as the patrons shared their favourite aspects of the production.
You do remember the story of Aladdin, don’t you?
This is the story about the magic of a street child overcoming all obstacles and dancing his way to fame and fortune with a cheeky smile, a set of speedy legs and sensational quick wit and cunning! There was even a lovely message about loyalty tucked in there. The theme reminded us about honesty too and supporting each other!!
The crowd alongside us ooh-ed and ahh-ed as we wished good things for the young and unfortunate Aladdin. How fabulous that he was given the opportunity to overcome so much to become abundant AND in love!
The dream came true and we left the stage with a sigh of happiness. We carried ourselves down the street with stars in our eyes…
…until I tripped over a young man huddled in a blanket and tightly hugging the wall of the shop next door for warmth on that cold and damp night at 10:00 pm.
I stopped, shocked, in the street causing someone from the show to bump into the back of me which I ignored while I looked at this youth – a young Aladdin- in his misery. Bridget turned her head to see what had held me up and we both stepped back out of the way in unison. We looked at each other and wordless, began to watch for a while.
We noted two things. Firstly, as we looked around the vast city street, we began to make out a few more mound shapes hidden in doorways with bodies very much alone curled up hidden in their hooded jumpers. We were looking at many homeless settling into their spaces for the night and bracing for another round of cold and hunger.
Secondly, as we watched, we noted that nobody else saw them.
This huge crowd of people had just seen a fabulous stage production costing several hundred dollars about a homeless street kid who needed help. They had cheered at his success! …Then they swept passed the modern day Aladdin without even seeing him.
We were stunned and ashamed.
A snap decision was made and all we could think of. We turned back down the street and entered the Seven 11 store. We made up packs of salad sandwiches, banana bread and nut bars with a pile of hot coffees. We began to distribute them.
By now the crowd had dispersed and gone on their way to homes warm and fridges full. Just as we would shortly. But for the moment, we chatted with those on the street and gave small packs of nourishment. Stories were shared with us freely and manners noticeable as each person accepted their pack with grace and gratitude. These were young people simply trying to survive. Some of them more experienced, more hardened and more philosophical than others but all of them learning things about life that perhaps Bridget and I could never understand. Pain and suffering lay at the core of their lives. Yet they were gentle and grateful for the tiny gifts we offered.
These people are normal members of society down on their luck and doing the best they know how. Our community can surely make room to welcome them in…
So how is it that people really do care about the misfortunes of others yet not quite identify need directly in front of them? When did romanticism of a beautiful cartoon character begin to supersede effective support of others less fortunate? How can society stop judging others as worthy of acknowledgement or not?
By now, Bridget and I had acquired a warm talkative and homeless guide who wandered around beside us as we spoke of many things. Our new friend assisted us to give hot drinks to others in his own predicament. We passed a bundle scrunched into the wall and stopped to investigate. I was deeply touched by a young man with head down and ignoring all noise, a thin blanket around his shoulders. As I leaned over him and offered him his coffee and Bridget handed over food, this lad lifted his head and looked right at me with the saddest eyes I have ever seen. As a registered nurse of 39 years, I have seen a few sets of miserable eyes. This youth took the award that night. As he reached up for his coffee, I heard a soft whisper of “thank you so much”. With my answer of “You are very welcome, sweetheart”, I watched as his eyes filled with tears.
I carry this dear boy in my heart weeks later. For the other reality is that Bridget and I were two women in glam dresses and high heel shoes in the rain and it was getting late.
It was time to go and our tiny offerings were spent.
For Bridget and I, Aladdin Night gave us huge pause to think about the value of all human beings (all sentient beings actually) and how in their very lowest state, all pretense and illusion disappears. The important things emerge. A small act of kindness becomes a lifeline.
There are many things we can do to help out. Simply letting someone know you care is important to someone who feels worthless and unwanted. These guys were cold and hungry. A warm drink and a pair of socks means so much.
There are several groups of support that seek volunteers and funding if you feel like giving service. Information is available to you. Google!
Perhaps a small warm gesture of recognition with no judgement gives an emotional hug to a needy recipient, something we are all worthy of. We all need to feel that we have value. Positive acknowledgement of ones existence provides a sense of this.
A society with open-mindedness and awareness of what suffering lies around us helps to simply send genuine loving thoughts and words to those whose lives are so very unstable right now. It could be any one of us. Our city Aladdins’ are not going to find a genie or a flying rug without help at both a government level and a personal level where community cares!
Next time you head out for a fun evening, keep your heart awareness available for the less fortunate and maybe you can offer prayer, a kind word or a hot chocolate. You may save a life.
I learnt lots that night. I am now busy thinking and researching about how I might help more in practical ways with the right support. I am so grateful for humble personalities we met. May God and society bless them abundantly ..and as soon as possible .