I had the plan. I knew the bridge where it would happen. I knew how I was going to do it – a little valium would give me the courage to take my final leap. But then the thought struck me: “What if it backfires? With my luck, I’ll fall backward off the bridge railing and end up passed out on the sidewalk.”
It was a month before my 40th birthday when I reached my lowest point. My life until then had been filled with misery and abuse. I slept on sewer grates in Toronto, walked around in the coldest of winters with canvas running shoes on my feet and ate in soup lines. Some days I couldn’t even panhandle enough money to buy a coffee.
During a “good” period, I was fortunate enough to find someone who would take me in – a family or a new boyfriend – and I dared to dream that all would be well. Unfortunately, I never settled in one place for more than four years. My life was filled with manic depression, drugs, alcohol and random sexual partners.
One boyfriend in particular made me fear for my life. The beating that he gave me knocked out my teeth, chipped a cheekbone and left me bruised and bloody. He refused to leave me alone for fear that I would run to the police. Ten days later I left him – just walked out onto the street, not knowing where I would end up.
I spent one night at a friend’s place before finding a bed at a women’s shelter. I was there for less than a week when they kicked me out. I had overextended my curfew by 20 minutes while trying to assist an inebriated resident. It was a Friday, June 20, the day before my birthday, and I was homeless. A bag lady on my 40th birthday! I spent yet another night on my friend’s couch and contacted other shelters.
“This time,” I told myself, “things would be different. I will save money and get a place of my own. No more thoughts of suicide! No more abusive boyfriends!” But I soon fell back into unhealthy habits and spent my money on drugs, alcohol and gambling.
I felt extremely lost and unhappy, until a friend took me to a Sunday night church service at the Salvation Army Harbour Light church in downtown Toronto. I was overwhelmed by the wonderful music and singing. I cried to hear the stories of people who had endured the same abuse that I had.
I found an apartment close to the church, but things were far from perfect. After a night of binge drinking, I began to wonder about my purpose in life. In my loneliness, I cried out to God: “Why can’t somebody love me?” I heard a whisper like a breeze fluttering by my ear: “Jesus loves you.”
My life did not miraculously change after that moment but, for the first time, I truly felt loved. I still tried to do things in my own will, but I learned to recognize my failures and slowly began changing my lifestyle. Eventually I found peace in the knowledge that all things are under God’s control.
With the help of people in the Army I turned my life around, and I eventually became a member of the Harbour Light church. I am now employed by the Harbour Light as a front-line worker with the breakfast ministry. Every morning I serve a hot meal to homeless people in downtown Toronto and share God’s love. I don’t believe that life on the street is what God had in mind when He created them.
Since I became a Christian, my life has been transformed. I started out wanting to die. Now I have hope and a purpose. I’m living life in the best way possible – with Jesus at my side.