About 2 weeks ago, during my last week in New York, I made a meeting that is definitely worth to be shared here. No joyful meeting and certainly no one I would forget so quickly.
As usual, I reached the Grand Central and headed for the subway station so I could continue to the Meatpacking District. Because it was relatively hot again, I had a large water bottle with me, but it didn’t survive the train ride and was already empty when I arrived. In order not to carry it all day, I searched for a trash can to dispose it. That was the moment I met Monica.
Monica was neatly dressed and groomed, and asked me politely if it was all right if she took my water bottle. I was frankly confused, because there is no deposit system in America in the sense that we have it here in Germany. Why, then, an empty bottle from which someone else had already drunk? At first I thought of an environmental activist, but what followed I could not guess at all.
Monica just wanted the bottle to fill up with water. She was homeless, her home the Grand Central.
“Every morning I go down to the toilets, wash myself and my clothes and fill my water. The Grand Central is my home and if it is to stay that way, I always have to look neat and tidy. “
I was shocked. Out of everything I had not seen this coming at all. Of course it was again one of those unpleasant moments to ask for the why’s. But for Monica it was all right. I had the feeling she was glad someone was listening to her.
“It all started about 5 years ago when my two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with blood cancer. My husband and I were shocked, but we took the time to give everything for the life of our daughter and fight to the bitter end. Numerous therapies and treatments partly in the double-digit amount and all without a health insurance. We never thought something like this would ever happen in our lives.
We took out loans, my parents-in-law supported us and we borrowed money from friends. After 1 1/2 years, heavily indebted and exhausted, we lost the fight for our child.
We had sold our house by now, the apartment only rented from a friend. But also therapies and help from outside did not help us to get over this loss.
Instead of talking to each other and helping each other, my husband and I were isolated. We did not meet with friends or family anymore and did not talk to each other. We lived together and yet I slept alone every night.
I had already given up my job and so I had nothing but my loneliness.
It took only half a year until we decided to divorce and both go our own way.
Tom went back to his home town near Boston. A new job, a psychological therapy, a completely new life.
For me, this route went to New York, the drug and alcohol scene and weeks of constant partying. I stole, sold my body for money and I kept slipping down.
The only thing that helped me escape from this swamp was when someone said to me, “You know your daughter is sitting up there watching you. Do you want her to see you like that?“
Of course not! So I decided to take my remaining belongings and get my life back on the line again. Rather moderately successful. I had various jobs in fast food restaurants, bars and and and. Nobody helped me get over the loss, no one helped me get over what I had experienced. Now I’m sitting here, healthy and clean. And you know I’ve lost the fight for my daughter and the fight for my marriage. I do not want to lose the fight for my life out here.“
In all the many conversations I have every day, when people complain about things or are unhappy, I rarely had one like with Monica. A conversation after which I asked myself what it means when I say I have a problem. This is something like this: the printer does not work or the pants are in the laundry. I’m annoyed when I have to wait in line or if someone is driving slowly and why? Because I believe that all this is worth to complain about.
We often lose the focus, believe our problems would be the problems of each. The fact is, everyone is carrying his small package. Monica’s package is big, almost huge. She has a time behind her. Nevertheless, she is incredibly polite, very reserved and humble. She showed me that life is not just easy for everyone and that if I look at things sometimes from a different perspective everything might look different. And she is right.
We should be more grateful for the things that life gives us sometimes and we should stop complaining about every little issue. Thanks to Monica !!