By: Keeley Aliya

My spontaneous conversation with Marvin enlightened my perspectives regarding fear, the past, and the effect those things have on us today, making me consider situations with a new frame of reference. One of the first things he told me was that people “stuck in the pain of the past” can only escape if they are willing to communicate with other people. When the unchangeable past has attached itself so strongly to somebody that it becomes all they can think about, such a state leaves a person paralyzed; their present and future crumble before them, while everything that matters lays in the untouchable realm of history.

Marvin (Left) and author Keeley Aliya (Right)

This mental self-trap is the crucial tipping point of despair and hope; if a person can recognize friends are the key to overcoming the past, and actively seek out another pair of eyes for support, hope can be achieved and brooding despair can be evaded. People can provide a perspective on another’s struggle with the past, which the person couldn’t consider before, due to their narrow, backward-facing view of the world, that makes a person’s internal journey toward improvement possible. Counsellors, therapists, psychiatrists, and other such people are not necessary for ‘fixing’ people who are drowning in the past; an appreciation of the present and hope for the future can only be achieved internally, after the person has actively considered and engaged with various self-perspectives that friends, family and others have helped them realize.

Fear is another overbearing state of being that can only be lessened through communication with others. Fear festers in every part of society, making people immovable and debilitated, something you can see even in those living in high-rise apartment buildings. Living paycheck to paycheck, those people are stuck in their own world, denying change only because they’ve convinced themselves they have a stable life, with a stable income, and stable expenses. In reality, their façade of stability breeds fear, making them become beady-eyed and skittish in the face of unexpected events that have the potential to shatter their comfortable routine of living month-to-month. They view self-reliance as a necessary feature to their lifestyle, unwilling to communicate or reach out in case they encounter somebody who wants to sabotage the life they believe they have built up, but, in reality, is just a rotating circle that gets them nowhere.

Those living in the Downtown Eastside, on the other hand, have become used to fear. Many fight for their survival 24 hours a day, so fear is something they take in stride. Change is natural for them, even welcome in many cases, so instead of letting their fear cram them into hiding, they reach out and share their experiences to form relationships that they know can be valuable to their well-being. The Downtown Eastside is packed with strong people, people who embrace the benefits of being friendly. As a result, almost everybody knows each other in that community, creating a sphere, a network, of connection and support between people who are mutually suffering, since they’ve realize nobody can suffer alone.

Marvin receiving a coffee at one of Bumpin’s Sunday handouts in 2017

Some people have become too reliant on this network of people that functions only within the Downtown Eastside, though. They are hesitant to leave or experience change in case they are abandoned by the Downtown Eastside, where they have become so comfortable. They choose not to conquer how scared they are to discover new places, people, and things, trapping themselves on East Hastings where many free food organizations can guarantee their survival. Marvin recognizes survival comes hand in hand with putting yourself out there and widening your relationships, especially if you want to experience happiness while you survive, which is the main reason that living another day becomes worth it.

This is where Bumpin becomes infinitely important. They are not only helping Downtown Eastside residents survive, they have formed, and are continuing to expand, a community, a place people want to return to, not just for food, but for the opportunity to meet new faces, exchange conversations and build friendships. They are enlivening the prospect of creating new relationships for Downtown Eastside residents by making connections seem so simple to initiate. Volunteers of all ages play a huge role in ensuring the Downtown Eastside residents that attend the handout are engaged, happy, and breaking out of their comfortable network of Downtown Eastside residents to associate and converse with volunteers, which makes residents relaxed enough to open up to fellow people attending the handout that they may never have attempted to interact with before. This also shows volunteers the importance of action, and the difference one hello can make to a person’s life. Marvin praised the lasting community of people that Bumpin laid the foundation for, his words articulating why we, as humans, need other people in our lives.

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