Everyone has an origin story that drives their decision-making. This is mine. It’s what motivates me to work to help others.
At 16, my closest friends were drug dealers, prostitutes, and street people.
Getting by on one meal a day provided by the local hostel, I ate when I was fortunate enough to arrive on time before too many others did. I suffered no mental illness, came from a big family, and had lots of friends. And it wasn’t addiction that forced me to the streets at 16, either.
Rather, I’d drifted away from my family and friends, having exhausted their patience and good graces through poor choices and over-stayed welcomes. One such visit ended abruptly as I was coaxed away at knife-point.
The summers passed uneventfully. The winters, less comfortably. On the coldest of nights, I hunkered down in an old trailer on the edge of the First Nations reserve with a number of other street people. Everyone was welcome to crash there, as long as they didn’t bring drugs, johns, or other trouble with them.
Late one night a popular young fellow – known to be a dealer – appeared at the door sporting a metal pin set into his cheek. The pin pointed outwards, just under his deeply blackened eye. Unexpectedly upbeat and making the most of the moment, he gathered everyone around and shared a rather gripping tale describing how his doctor – also his OXY supplier – repaired his broken face after a dust-up with unhappy clients. We were enthralled.
Months passed, winter turned to spring and eventually towards one particularly chilly fall evening. Having missed a number of meals at the hostel, I decided to walk a few miles off the usual path back to the trailer. Wandering into the suburbs, I searched for gardens that hadn’t been completely harvested. Peering from the relative safety of the dark alleyways, I spotted one such garden, dropped to the ground, and crawled quietly on my elbows under a barbed-wire fence to the edge of the garden and a row of carrots. Careful not to give away my presence, I pulled one carrot at a time from the earth, ate it quietly, and wept. Chunks of dirt and debris covered the carrots, but I chewed anyway. Having eaten as many carrots as I could, without eating them all, and pocketed the greens that might give away my visit, I crawled back out using my toes and elbows, retracing my path under the fence, careful not to make any noise in case I needed to return.
Weeks later, bored and aimlessly walking through a local shopping mall, I glanced towards one of the tall, narrow mirrors on the pillar that separated the shops. My eyes simultaneously caught view of my appearance… unkept hair, ragged jack-shirt… and my parents walking up an adjacent hallway. I froze, overcome with shame and fear that they might see me in the reflection as well. I then turned quickly and raced away as fast as my feet would take me. Exiting a side door and rounding a dumpster, I slipped in some grime, righted myself, then just kept running. The encounter shook me hard enough to get cleaned up, get a haircut and ask for some used clothes from the Salvation Army. Eventually, I worked up enough courage to pick up a pay phone and dial home. My mother picked up and accepted the collect charge. I asked her simply, “Can I come home?” She said, “Yes.”
I don’t likely fit your vision of a homeless person, and I don’t feel I did back then either. Thankfully, I never got into drugs, prostitution, or other dangerous distractions. But I was certainly troubled. The details o that will wait for another day.
Not long after I returned home – still just 17 – my mother passed away. She drowned while saving two children from drowning. They’d swum out past the edge of a sandbar in a small lake in the BC interior. After sprinting 100 metres in knee-high water to the edge of the drop-off, she dove in, grabbed the kids, and tossed them back onto the sandbar. The effort was too much for her heart, causing a massive stroke.
From these experiences, I discovered inner strength, a tenacity to weather the cyclonic nature of boom and bust in my adoptive city, and the mentality required to beat stage four cancer. Like everyone else on this earth, I’ve experienced formative events that can’t be represented in a social media profile or marketing demographic.
My true self – like yours – is a culmination of moments…the warmth of family gatherings, hunger-driven garden raids, accidental friendships, and a multitude of personal experiences. These moments shape us into the people we become.
At the core of me has grown a dedication to fighting for the forgotten, to help others find stability, to guide the people in my life to prosperity and happiness. All of my undertakings, including wpSites, provide an opportunity to remove barriers for others. My mission in life is to be generous and work to help others see prosperity for themselves. In doing so, the day that I leave this earth, I’ll do so knowing that my life was one worth living.
Forever grateful, Randy Milanovic