Never assume…

We live in the “lucky” country where we’re told our fortunes are equal only to our tenacity, right?

A story I heard this week swiftly reminded me how fragile our situation can be – and how one unlucky strike or wrong decision can crumble the empire we’ve constructed around us.

Over the past few years volunteering with a women’s service in St Kilda I’ve come to know a woman I’ll call Grace, who I’d guess is in her 60s. Grace’s clothes are often marked and she’s long stopped wearing bras to support her hefty bosom. She mumbles when she talks, which can make it difficult to know what she wants.

She likes her meals to be presented just so and if you forget a step in the process, you’ll know about it. You’re lucky to get a grunt of gratitude when you present her meal but all is forgiven when she gives you a quick hug and a murmured “thankyou darling” before she shuffles home to her accommodation.

Grace keeps to herself and since we crossed paths three years ago, I’ve never known much about her. In fact, I wondered if she had been struck by dementia.

It’s only this week I’ve been told she was once a beautiful, powerful woman, known to many in St Kilda. But after she was bashed to within an inch of her life, she was never the same again.

I often hear people judge homelessness or welfare-reliance as a choice – but stories like Grace’s are a stark reminder that we’re all only a few unlucky steps from such a situation.

So rather than judging people for asking you for money or for cluttering your vista with their trolley of possessions, a little bit of compassion is only fair.

Image: Steve Rode, Flickr 

*Please note, this is a stock image, not of Grace.