In this space, you can engage with people writing and talking about contemporary issues concerning home and homelessness with some theological reflection. You can hear Manda talk about how being left on a bus at the age of nine, made her appreciate her home and the experiences of homeless people. You can also hear Tanya talk about the homeless people she’s met in her seaside town, and Rebekah talk about a surprising encounter on a bench. There are some questions to help you start a discussion with friends in a group or to help you engage with the stories.
Manda’s story: home
When I was nine, I used to get the bus from my remote total village to secondary school. There weren’t many buses and the journey took about an hour. One winter day I was coming home on the bus, and I was the only person left on it. I rang the bell for my stop, but the driver didn’t stop. I rang it again but he still didn’t stop. I kept pressing the button, but either the bell had stopped working or he ignored it. I didn’t know what to do, so I just sat there. The bus drove on and on. Eventually the bus stopped outside the bus station in the next town and the driver got out and I got off.
I had no idea where I was or what to do. It was too late to get another bus back. It was in the days before mobile phones and I didn’t have any cash. I was nine years old and stuck and I felt really frightened and vulnerable. So I just started walking. It was getting dark and I was scared to death. It took me two hours to walk home along the dark country roads, getting more and more cold, wet and hungry, as well as frightened. When I got there, my mum was frantic and she just fell on me and started crying and I cried too. I had never been so glad to see my house, with the lights on, and my mum inside, and so grateful for a cup of tea, a change of clothes, and a hot dinner. Once I’d calmed down, had a bath and eaten, I felt so much better and able to look at the whole incident more sensibly.
Later, when I was in bed, I got up and found an old children’s book about the Prodigal Son my grandmother gave me when I was first old enough to read. It never really interested me. But now I found I really knew what it was like to be lost, alone, scared and without anyone to help me. And I really understood how it would feel to come home and be welcomed and taken in by the person who’d missed you and desperately wanted you to come back.
And now whenever I see someone who is homeless, I remember what it felt like to be that scared kid, trying to get home, and I always try to find out what’s happened to them and to help. I was adrift for two hours, but they are sometimes stuck like that for their whole lives. And I am grateful for my home and my family, who welcome me back like a Prodigal even if I’ve just been to the shops. I’m never going to take that for granted.
- Have you ever had an experience like Manda’s? What happened and how did it make you feel?
- What do you imagine Manda’s mum thought and did when Manda didn’t come home on time?
- What do you think Manda and her mum said to each other when Manda arrived home safely?
- How important do you think it was that Manda could have a bath and something to eat when she got back?
- What experiences in your life have affected the way you think about people who do not have homes?