Last year my friend and I unknowingly handed out little Buddhas to the same young man who was living on the streets of Melbourne at that time.
Separately we both had meaningful conversations with him and later when he found me on social media those conversations continued.
Recently I met up with Lukas, now off the streets, and selling copies of Big Issue to make a living.
It was great to talk with him further about what helped this transition from homelessness to more financially secure living.
He took time out from selling his magazines to have a hot chocolate with me.
In Lukas’ words:
” When you came across me it turned out to be near the end of my final year on the streets.
A month after receiving Buddhas from you and Julie, I got off the streets.
I came across someone from a housing group who organised for me to get into crisis accommodation. And around that time I decided to try being a Big Issue vendor.
I was given 3 months crisis accommodation and a social worker who guided me to find more long term housing in a boarding house.
When I first went onto the streets I had given up on life. So if it wasn’t for the people I met on the streets and the kindness that was shown to me I don’t know that I would have survived.
There was hard stuff too of course. I had my stuff stolen so many times. It’s hard to trust many people when you are in that situation.
But I am so glad I found the Big Issue because what they do for homeless and people with disabilities is fantastic.
I don’t think enough people know the extent of the great work they do.
It’s been going in Australia for 20 years.
They now have a program called the Big Issue Classroom. School kids come in groups most days and they hear about the marginalisation of people and what that means for some people’s life choices. So I am involved sometimes telling my life story. It was really hard at first and uncomfortable to talk about what I went through as a child. I tell them about my time on the street.
The also have a Big Idea program for university students that are keen to come up with their own social enterprises.
As I stand selling my the magazine I see lots of people with miserable faces walking past. People with obviously more money and things I have and they are so unhappy even though they have more. So I value a smile and kindness, a roof over my head and some food.
Pretty simple needs really.
I don’t want to try and get more things in my life. If I can make others smile and can wake up with a smile on my face then I am pretty content.
Where I stand to sell the Big Issue magazine my daily aim is to meet everyone with a smile no matter what mood they seem to be in. It’s a come a bit of a social experiment.”
Lukas was still carrying in his pocket the Budai I had given him previously.
Before leaving I offered him to choose his third Buddha for this phase of his journey.
He was delighted to do so. He chose a Budai with its hands in the air with fruit in bowls- a symbol of abundance.
Buddha donated by Jo Adelaide