January 2

Melbourne for Immigrants, the Hard Way

"Homeless" by George Hodan

Opening up is always hard. Specially when English is your second language. I can hear that tiny little voice now. "You are not good enough for this. Stop it." Oh well… I guess my current situation has taken a bit of a toll on my self-confidence.

The fact is, if I don’t speak up, how would you then know my story?

My name is Luis. I come from a crime-ridden third world country. Left all my family behind and I came to Australia to pursue my studies. Alone.

Everything was good. That is, until my dad disappeared and so, I was cut off from all financial support.

My country’s embassy has told me that, without any formal request, they cannot intervene and that I should ask relatives for help first.

My mum and siblings have provided me with what little help they can give while trying to fend off by themselves back there. But they can only do it for so long.

I have looked for a job for some time now and I have gotten a few side gigs here and there but, unfortunately, not enough to pay for rent and groceries on a regular basis.

I started a job-hunting log book a few months ago. It says that I have already sent 573 job applications to date, not counting any previous ones. A few have become interviews. None a hire.

A few friends have helped me out a bit and I am currently living -stealthily- off a shed with no electricity and only minimal services, using rechargeable battery packs I have built myself out of donations for energy purposes. As you can imagine, I have become somewhat proficient at urban survival, security electronics, undercover operations, and energy management overall. It wasn’t always like that. At some point, I got to know what it meant to sleep rough and how dark some Melbourne streets can be.

I finished my university degree in Information Technology at an Australian university but, with no Aussie experience, no Permanent Residence (a.k.a. PR), and a working visa that I have become to know only too well it is frowned upon by most companies here, it has been proven to be harder than expected to get a stable job. Forget about CentreLink. I already tried that and they have told me I am not entitled to any kind of support from them. As if not being Aussie wasn’t already bad enough.

These circumstances have gathered in such a way that I was forced to meet face to face with the other Melbourne. The Melbourne that people don’t want to see. The Melbourne that makes people turn their heads away. Welcome to Melbourne, foreigner.

Hit the streets by 6am if you want breakfast. Work on sending those job applications. Knock on a few more doors. If I want dinner, I have to be at some point in the city by 6pm sharp. Fifteen minutes late and there won’t be any food left. Lateness here means no food for the day.

If you wanna know the true underground Australia, go homeless.

I have been there and I have experienced it first hand. No job, no money to stay, but neither to leave. Stranded on an island… Literally.

Uhm… Help?

This is how I learned about AngliCare and how I became one of their "customers", so to speak. It was there where I met Alex, Phil, Louise, and many other good people. People that are working on making of Australia a better place. As far as I know, there have been no casualties and I’m still alive so I guess they are doing something right.

A cuppa. A bowl of cereal. Some bread and butter. A friendly face. Someone to talk to. Things that people usually take for granted, suddenly become the most valuable thing around.

But they can’t do it all by themselves.

They need your help.

I need your help.

To know how you can help AngliCare, please call 1800 809 722, or you can visit their website on //www.anglicarevic.org.au/

And if you think I am good enough, have a job offer, make a donation, are interested in getting to know my full story, or whether I am for real, you can always get in touch with me.

This article originally appeared on the Christmas 2017 Lazarus Centre Chaplaincy Newsletter, Volume 4 Issue 4, and was reproduced with permission.

October 31

Find Yourself A Lover

Many people have a lover and many others would like to have it.

And there are also those who do not have it, because they do not want it and those who had it and lost it, or decided to lose it.

Mysteriously, these last two groups are usually the ones who come to my office the most to tell me that they are sad or have different symptoms: insomnia, lack of will, pessimism, crying episodes or the most diverse pains.

They say that their lives go by monotonously and without expectations, that they work only to survive and that they do not know how to occupy their free time.

In short, words more, words less, they truly feel hopeless.

Before telling me all this, they have already visited other medical offices in which they received a secure diagnosis: Depression. And the inevitable prescription of the current fashion antidepressant.

I, after listening carefully, tell them that they do not need any antidepressant drugs; what they really need IS A LOVER.

It is amazing to see the expression in their eyes when they receive my verdict.

There are those who think: How can a health professional happily give such an unscientific suggestion!? They make silence out of decency, look at the clock waiting for the end of the consultation and leave.

There are also those who, scandalized, say goodbye right then and there and often never return again.

What is a Lover?

To those who decide to stay, I give them the following definition:

“A Lover is anything that we are passionate about, it is what occupies our thinking before we fall asleep with a smile and that which, at times, does not let us sleep. Our lover is what makes us distracted from the environment, which lets us know that life does have a meaning and a motive.”

A lover may be our partner, if we dare to find him or her there.

Or it may not.

But a lover not always is a person. Sometimes, we can also find it in scientific research, in literature, in music, in politics, in sports, in work when it is vocational, in the need to transcend spiritually, in friendship, in good food, in our studies, or in the obsessive pleasure of a hobby that monopolizes our attention at every free moment we have.

In short, it is “someone” or “something” that disturbs our conscience to the point of drawing a smile at the thought of separating us, even for a moment, from the sad destiny of just enduring life.

To endure is to just last and, deep down, it is the fear of truly living. It is to spy on how others live, it is to wander through doctors’ offices taking our blood pressure at every chance, to take multicolored remedies, to get away from the perks of life, to watch with disappointment each new wrinkle that returns the mirror, it is to worry and take care of the cold, the heat, the humidity, the sun, the rain, and any strong emotions in our lives.

To endure is to postpone the joy of today, using the uncertain and fragile reasoning that maybe we can do it tomorrow.

Please do not insist on just enduring life, get yourself a lover!

Be yourself the lover of someone or something. Be the protagonist of your own life!

Death will come for sure. Death has a good memory and never forgot anyone, after all.

Meanwhile and without hesitation, get yourself a lover!

The tragedy is not dying; the tragedy is not encouraging oneself to live at its fullest.

Psychology discovered a long time ago that, to live happy, active, and satisfied, you need to have a motive.

Today, I call that motive a lover.

You have to become a boyfriend or a girlfriend with life and you have to love it with the passion of those who are genuinely in love.

So, your assignment for today: get yourself a lover!

This article was originally written by Jorge Bucay. Translated from Spanish by Luis Herrera.