Giving Back

The More You Give The More You Get

According to Psychology Today (The Neuroscience of Giving, by Eva Ritvo M.D. on Apr 24, 2014), “Neuroscience has demonstrated that giving is a powerful pathway for creating more personal joy and improving overall health.” In fact, giving of one’s self could be the best investment you can make towards achieving true happiness. I absolutely believe in the power of giving back to those who need it the most, and stand by the timeless adage that the more you give, the more you will receive.

Last Thursday night, in an effort to raise money for Covenant House (a homeless shelter and provider of services aimed at youth), I spent the night on the streets in the pouring rain with 55 other like-minded people. We came with nothing more than the clothes on our backs and were given a piece of cardboard and a sleeping bag for the night. And by doing this, we managed to raise a whopping $210,000 collectively.

Before we were directed to our prospective curbside designation for the evening, we had the pleasure of meeting several Covenant House residents. I have to admit that up until this night, I tended to view homelessness as a choice, and had the belief that most people who were on the streets were either runaways or drug abusers and had simply chosen this type of lifestyle or existence. What I hadn’t realized is that while this may be true in some instances, others consciously made a choice to leave a situation that was worse than living on the streets – situations that you hope no one you know or love would ever have to experience.

One individual - we will call her “Mary” - shared the story of how she ended up homeless, and how she believes Covenant House saved her from being trafficked or winding up dead:

Mary was a normal teenager who was going to school and enjoying life until the age of 16 when her mother introduced her to her new boyfriend and announced that he would be moving in. Mary was unsure of the change, however her mother was happy and the boyfriend seemed to be a nice person and genuinely care for her mom. Several months later however, Mary began to see changes in her mom’s behavior and soon learned that her mother and boyfriend had become addicted to methamphetamines. Mary’s nightmare worsened as her mother’s boyfriend became violent toward her and would beat her on a daily basis and, at one point, even injected her with heroin.

Mary made the drastic choice to run away – and ultimately this was the choice that would save her life. After a few weeks of living on the streets, Mary came to Covenant House after another shelter turned her away. Upon her arrival, she was taken into intake and given a full medical exam and treatment. She was then entered into the Covenant House Program for Youth – a program that supports homeless youth and gives them a chance to live a “normal” life. The program is one that has strict regulations and failure to comply with these will result in you having to leave Covenant House. During their stay, the youths are required to be in every night by 11:00; they are required to attend school and keep up passing grades; they are required to have a job and pay “rent” (money that will be returned when the individual moves out); and they are required to take basic life skills classes at covenant house on cooking, budgeting etc. Mary entered the program and now, 7 years later, she lives independently, works two jobs and has been accepted to law school. She continues to grieve the loss of her mother, who unfortunately died at the hands of her boyfriend.

This was only one of the several stories of amazing success I had the pleasure of hearing. While this program isn’t a “fit” for every youth who winds up on the street, it has helped thousands of young people to build a life of their own, away from the dangers of street life.

I didn’t expect any kind of “payback” when I gave my time to participate in fundraising efforts for Covenant House, however I am amazed at what this act of giving has given me in return: I have met some new lifelong friends; I have shown my children that giving of one’s self is the easiest gift you can give; I feel like I have made a small difference in the lives of homeless youth; and it has changed my own perspectives on some of the harsh realities people in our community are faced with on a daily basis. I gained all of this simply because I spent one night on the streets of Toronto.

Our world would be a different place if each and every one of us gave of ourselves for one day, one night, or even one hour, to a cause that we truly believe in. Trust me when I say, it will benefit you in ways you never expected.

Brett Meadows - Founder Bosker Properties