“Consider the following. We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.” - His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millennium
In the above quotation, His Holiness points out the importance of having positive relationships with other people. Among the positive ways we may relate to others is through love, intimacy and companionship.
What about the homeless? Do homeless people have these relationships? I asked homeless people about this topic and I thank them for their responses that follow.
Anonymous, 49 years old:
“We all need all three of these – love, sex and companionship. But, getting one of the above works for the moment.”
Darleen, 44 years old:
“You’ve got your topic wrong. Companionship should be first, then love then sex. That’s the right order. Recently, somebody parked his van near me and asked me to go with him. I said, ‘No.’ Then he hit me upside the head and he left. I was dazed. I took off. I didn’t report the violence to the police because I have a warrant.”
Josh, 19 years old:
“I’m a gang member. And I lost my best friend to a gang shoot-out eight days ago in South East San Diego. He was 19 years old and he was like my brother. The people who killed him were from another South East San Diego gang. Yesterday, I was sitting on the beach and talking to two gentlemen who were older, in their 20’s. It turned out that these two gentlemen were from the gang that killed my friend.
When I found this out, I wasn’t sure what to do – should I show them love or hate them. I chose to be neutral to them – that was the choice I made. I try to look at the positives of life. I just hope that anybody who losses a friend or family member due to non-natural causes can open their eyes and learn from the tragedy that it’s all about your decision whether you choose to hate or love.”
“Companionship – you find people in the same state as you are in so you tend to congregate. I really wouldn’t call the homeless people I hang out with, “friends.” I wouldn’t put my life in their hands and vice versa. But, at the same time, we look out for one another.
See this stuff here [pointing to backpacks and blankets on the ground] – no one is going to touch it because there is always someone looking after it. As far as making friends, people are always coming and going. There’s no time to make friends and keep in touch. It’s not like you’re going to develop a lifelong friendship.”
Adam, 29 years old:
“I think love and companionship are one and the same for me. The qualities you expect when you love someone are the same qualities you want in a companion. And it’s when you would do anything for someone. When your very existence depends upon the reaction of the other person. That’s what I believe.”
Roy, 41 years old:
“My wife, Diana, and I started seeing each other in New York when we were kids. We were together for 22 years. Diana served as an E-6 in the Navy, but she received an honorable discharge because she had breast cancer. Five months ago, I came to San Diego to bury Diana in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. She was 31 years old. I love her very much and I miss her.
I’m homeless now because I don’t want to go back to our home in New York and smell her clothes. I haven’t sought counseling because there’s been so much death in my family and I’ve always handled it on my own. [However,] I’ve been feeling kind of reckless since losing my wife and because of my health issues. I have Stage 4 colon cancer and pancreatic and lung lymphomas.”
Codi, 18 years old:
“When you’re on the street, love is hard to find. But I figure that love is not found, it comes in time. But, if you do find love out here, the bond will be stronger than most because it’s not just about the sex when things are said and done. It’s whether they will be there by your side when no one else will and whether they will sleep next to you in a ditch.”
“Since I’ve been living this lifestyle, I’ve been celibate for five years. When I first started living this lifestyle, there was something inside me that wanted companionship – mostly because I was afraid to travel by myself. But within six months of me living a traveling lifestyle, I went with a backpack to Thailand, India and Nepal. I realized that if I could do that alone, I could do anything alone! After several months back in the United States, I got very sick and ended up in the hospital in Ashland, Oregon.
When I got out of the hospital, people who would not have been attractive to me before were suddenly attractive because I was in a place of weakness and I wanted someone there for me. That was an eye-opening experience for me. I realized that that place of weakness was the place from which I entered every relationship I had ever had. I decided that I did not want to be with anyone until I could heal myself or whatever was in me that was broken.
So if I have a relationship again, I want it to come from strength. And I want someone who will bring something to my life. I haven’t met anyone like that yet. Of course, at 53 years old, living in a vehicle and traveling, I’m not sure how great my odds are of finding someone worthy. Now, I have a dog. He’s a great companion.”
I look forward to your comments.