Embrace of Trust (Johnny)

Continuing along the backstreet of Richmond, I came across Johnny who looked as though he had a whole party going on. Our time together could have gone in different directions, he was polite, smiled and acknowledged me. I could have dismissed him easily and he wouldn’t have thought otherwise.

I sat with Johnny leaned my back up against the wall of an expensive restaurant I had eaten in two Christmases ago. I traded cigarettes with him and both of us just started a conversation like we were old friends over smokes.  One thing I realized about the people I met on the streets is that trust is important and to build trust you have to do what you would do in all of your relationships. Respect, acknowledge, appreciate and listen to the person you want to trust and have them return the same to you. I gave Johnny what I would give any of my friends and for that I received an amazing and memorable Christmas gift from him. 2009 had been a year where I lost trust in people and skeptical of anyone’s underlying motive towards me. My own misgivings and inability to trust had been shutting me out from people who cared and wanted to be there for me.

Johnny began opening up bags to show me what people had left for him throughout the night and all day of Christmas. He pulled out envelopes filled with money gifted from strangers, many pairs of socks, he offered some of the food he received to share with me. I realized he trusted me, he had nothing more than what was surrounding him on the corner. His whole life in bags and he shared everything with me even asking about my life and story. The stories he shared with me aren’t much different from my own experiences in life. His trust in me became very important and I appreciated it very much.

Something else magical happened with Johnny and it was this moment that will stay with me forever. Trust is something earned, friendship is something maintained and from that people choose to include you as part of the pack of family they have. A woman came walking up the street, Johnny turned to the woman (a good friend of his and fellow streeter) and asked how she was and she returned with smiles and typical banter. Johnny then introduced me by my name to Tamara, she and I exchanged handshakes and conversation. While his situation is difficult, he took the time to listen to me as much as I listened to him and for 15 minutes I got to be a part of their friendship circle and it made me feel welcomed.

Johnny is in his 30’s originally hailing from the good ole city of Halifax, he lost his parents in a car crash five years ago in Nova Scotia and last year while sleeping on the streets he was run over by a garbage truck spending only fours in hospital to be sent back to the street. He has been on and off the streets for the last four years and doesn’t feel sorry for himself in the slightest. After wishing me a Merry Christmas we parted ways, emotionally choked I walked away and could feel the tears welling in my eyes.

Merry Christmas Johnny! Thank you!