We've asked Louise to tell us what inspired her to write this story.
I started writing the book "Forgotten" in the summer of 2015 ... yes about 6 months ago. It was a labor of love. My friend Tom had been diagnosed with cancer. He shared a dream he had had which follows:
"A man awakens from a coma and does not know who he is or where he is from. So he makes his way across Canada in search for his identity. Along the way, he becomes homeless and his views on homeless change."
One should always be careful what one tells a writer. It could end up in a book. I did, however, tell my friend I could write a short story about his 'dream'. What started as a short story morphed into a book I decided to call "Forgotten".
Coincidentally, if you believe in coincidences, a few weeks before, I had started volunteering for The Humanity Project. The soup kitchens and the food banks were closed for holidays at the same time and food was scarce for the homeless in Moncton. The weather was also very hot and there was no water to be found, not free water that is. Well, there was a water fountain in Centennial Park, in the dog run. Water for the dogs was available. Water for the homeless was not. The Humanity Project, a group made up totally of volunteers, decided to pick up the slack because of the closure due to their holidays at the same time. So they set up tables at Lyle's Garage on St. George Street and volunteers brought baked dishes for supper every night. Others bought and brought paper plates, forks, spoons, etc. Bottled water was a huge need. What I saw was they did not just feed the homeless, they also passed no judgement. No ID was requested, no having to prove you needed a meal was needed. You accepted each person for who they were and asked no questions. You soon learned that a smile and acceptance was as important as the food served.
While writing my friend's story, it took on a life of its own. Perhaps because of my new knowledge on the needs of people who were homeless or the working poor I was meeting. But more than that, it was by talking to the many volunteers who, without any government funding, without any financial gain, with their goal only to show kindness and acceptance to others that this organization touched my heart and touched my fingers as I sat at my computer writing my 'short story' which became my first novel.
Time was important. My friend Tom was getting worse. I did not know how long he had. Writing page after page became a routine and an outlet for all my feelings. I let the characters tell their story, I let the main character, T, discover who he truly was. His identity became secondary to discovering his true self.
When I finished my book, I knew there was a message to be shared. I know most people understand homelessness and most people care. But I wanted to do a little bit more. I knew this was somehow NOT my book. It was T's book, T's message. I decided the reason I had written it was beyond my own comprehension. It might even do some good. I decided to publish it and some of the profits would go to The Humanity Project.
With the help of my friend and later Editor, Lee D. Thompson, the book was published. The front cover is of a print given to me free by Serge Martin, photographer from Moncton. The back cover is a photo given to me by Charlie Burrell, Founder of The Humanity Project. It is of a tent which was used by a man in his 70s. Charlie knew him well. The Humanity Project helped this man get on social assistance, helped him find affordable housing and since January when The Humanity Project was given permission to use the old Moncton Curling Club Building on Lutz Street, he now does the cleaning. The best thing, however, is hearing this man in his 70s say: "I now have a life."
THP's winter headquarters, located on Lutz Street may become homeless again. That is, unless the City of Moncton allows The Humanity Project to continue to use the old Moncton Curling Association. At this point, from what I know, they would need approx. $400,000 to buy the building outright.
The Humanity Project also holds regular AA meetings in this building. They have hairdressers who volunteer their services to shampoo and cut hair and give shaves for those who want one. There is a room for free clothing. There is a room for children to play and learn while their parent( s ) are upstairs socializing (there is a lot of laughter in that building).
All of the above is why all proceeds from the sale of the book "Forgotten" will be given to them. This makes my heart smile.
The book "Forgotten" can be purchased by going to the U.S. site: www.lulu.com - or if you live in Moncton and can pick up the book, may contact me at email@example.com. The cost is $18 if ordered through me (no shipping cost)..
To close, I will share one of my favorite passages from the book. There are no coincidences and this passage now holds a very special meaning for me since my book launch on February 25th. But that is for another time, another place.
(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)
Another man tells me, “Name’s Ron. Ronald Bedford. Served in Afghanistan.”
This takes me by surprise. “You’re a Vet are you? And homeless? How long you been homeless?”
“Roughly about five years. I guess it was my fault. I have a problem you know. Post Traumatic Stress something or other. Eh, I just don’t know how to cope with it. But the
DVA’s trying to help me but, like, every time I feel like I’m getting some help, I get paranoid. And I just take off.”
“Take off? What do you mean, Ron?”
“You know, I leave. You can only be in the program for so long, you know. I try to stay in the program but I’m scared to death of reality cause I don’t know how to cope with it. Sometimes I’d rather try to commit suicide than I would to stay alive. To tell you the honest truth, I hit myself, about a year ago, in the head with a brick. But it didn’t work.”
“Has anyone tried to help you?”
“Sure they tried to help me. You know, give me stuff for nightmares and for this and that and the other, but it just doesn’t help me any.”
“You’re still haunted by Afghanistan.”
“If you only knew brother. If you only knew.” He pauses and looks at me. “Have you ever killed anybody?”
“No,” I can barely get the word out of my mouth.
“I have. Face to face. See this?” He pulls up one of his pant legs. “I got a hole in my leg. From a shrapnel wound. But they don’t care anymore.”
“I care Ron.”
“Yeah. I think there’s people in this world that really care. Like you, like these people here at the shelter. They care.”
“How long were you in Afghanistan?”
“One year. One long year. But I’m not crazy. And I’m not suicidal.”
I look at the tears that are welling up in his eyes. How can one not feel sorry for him? All I can say is, “It had to be tough. Especially having to kill people.”
“Well, I was trained to do that.”
“They must have a hard time to train people to do that cause it’s not in people’s nature. It’s not.”
Ron just says “Well, how come they don’t untrain you?” and walks away.
Good question. Very good question.
Thank you Louise for sharing your story.
If you missed Louise's previous visit, please go here to read her short story Date Night.
Next week you can read Allan Hudson's amusing short story - Funeral Food.
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