The Bench.

It was a cold and wet winter’s night as I left the hospital. It was close to 9:00pm. The person I was visiting had their own room and was very unwell, so I was able to extend normal visiting hours.

Tired and preoccupied, it was by sheer chance that I noticed the young man, lying on the bench outside the hospital. Beautiful eyes in a world worn face, the young man was only in his early twenties, a similar age to one of my own children. My heart ached.

After checking that it was not a physical medical crisis I asked,

“Mate, what can I do for you, what do you need?”

I assumed his response; given his rough sleeping status and dishevelled appearance. His actual response was far more powerful and poignant……… “I need a hug”, he replied.

With the able assistance of others, supporting me, he got the hug and some help.

Another human in Geelong desperate for authentic connection.

The ‘not for profit’ community group ‘Humans in Geelong’ aims to inspire, build connection and strengthen community. Our stories reflect ordinary humans in Geelong that are doing extraordinary things.

This young man, caught in the ‘isolation of survival’ was yet to find his ‘extraordinary’….but extraordinary he was. Personifying author Amanda Richardson’s quote, “In a world where many wear a mask, it is a privilege to see a soul”.

The ‘Three Pillars of Trauma Informed Care’ are safety, connections and managing emotional impulses. The pandemic would appear, in our community, to have insidiously further impacted each of these pillars.

Humans in Geelong often tell the stories of wonderful organizations and individuals who are supporting, in tangible ways, those who find themselves physically, mentally and/or emotionally ‘homeless’.

The challenge for our Geelong community is to build and nourish our own individual pillars of trauma informed care by the inclusive, warm, respectful and compassionate way we interact with ourselves, each other and our environment.

Author, Nicole Helget once somewhat contentiously said, “We are only as happy as our saddest child.” This quote may elicit an emotional response, even if cognitively we understand that contentment (my preferred word) can be a choice. Sensitive to mental unhealth, generational trauma, addiction challenges and a myriad of other challenges that many are forced to navigate daily, we can still choose the path of contentment, regardless our circumstance.

As Holocaust thriver Edith Eger says in the magnificent podcast ‘A Slight Change of Plan’, “No Nazi could take away my Spirit. No one can take away from you what you put in your mind. Ecstasy came from within.”

Many perhaps more readily identify with Nicole Helget’s words, especially when we have vicariously carried a loved one’s pain. However challenging, it is possible though to choose to be content. How liberating for the Geelong community if we embraced the Martin Luther King quote “the surest way to be content is to seek contentment for others”, realised through authentic, inclusive connection.

One day we may well write another story on the incredible Human in Geelong, who I initially connected with on a cold winter’s night, on a bench outside a hospital. Hopefully this next time they will be the voice of their own story, having recognised and reached into their own incredible potential.

Jacinta Foster-Raimondo