June 27, 2016.
Storytelling and writing may inspire deep reflection. As I reflect upon the kind of individual Lorne is, and the impact he has had on me during my time at HOPE House, it is difficult to convey the way in which he touches the lives of everyone he speaks with. As an aboriginal man from western Canada, Okanagan Valley to be exact, Lorne has endured a life filled with unpredictable highs and lows. His personal story is riddled with discrimination, abuse, and mental health challenges, yet today, he maintains a positive, optimistic and realistic outlook on life.
Lorne moved to the Guelph community two years ago to help care for his ex-girlfriend and his two daughters. As a young boy, he considered careers in firefighting or with the military, as protecting people has come naturally. His motivation to help others is attributed to the physical and verbal abuse he experienced at the hands of his parents: “a large part of my abuses growing up made me want to be there for people”. As Lorne navigated life, his relationship with his parents dismantled.
“My parents are shocked that I’m still alive. I called them on my 21st birthday like, ‘Hi, I’m still alive. I’m still here…Sorry you don’t have the confidence in me to live past twenty, but here I am, thanks’. After the third time, I just stopped calling”.
Speaking with Lorne and listening to his stories, is like listening to your favourite grandparent who has hitchhiked across Canada and knows a little bit about everything on the planet. Interestingly, Lorne explained that his humility (although he won’t admit he’s humble) was inspired by really, really old Chinese movies. These movies – the ones with the awful voice dubbing – taught him that “you’re not the only one here. Don’t think that you’re the only one here, because there’s always someone else out there that’s better…You are what you are and it’s good to understand where you are”.
Lorne’s deep wisdom, knowledge, and all-encompassing worldview has been shaped through his life experiences. Our conversation jumped from community to family abuse, from history and religion to environmental sustainability. Lorne shared that he has faced marginalization and discrimination in communities across Canada for being First Nations, yet he wouldn’t say that he is a minority: “well, I can’t really say I’m a minority because I’m not. Like if you look at the truth of who the minorities are in this world, I’m the exact opposite. We’re run by a minority, exerting itself as the majority and everyone else is falling in line with it”. He learned about the reality and legacy of Residential Schools from the elders in his western community, as the education system seemed to “briefly breeze over” this difficult topic and “sweep it under the carpet”.
When discussing environmental sustainability – something Lorne is rather passionate about – Lorne shed light on the reality that the human impact on the environment has had on those experiencing poverty and homelessness.
He said, “we put a hole in our ozone layer and now our roof is leaking. You know, people don’t think about it from that terminology because they think of a roof on a house. I live on the street therefore my home is affected”.
With over 300 people experiencing homelessness in Guelph, our community often fails to acknowledge the direct impact we have on the environment and how that ripples down to make homelessness that much more challenging.
As for Lorne’s future? Lorne has one motivation and that is to be granted joint custody of his children: “[I want to] protect them, raise them right. To show them that its not bad and I really do love them. That’s my goal really. I don’t have any other major goals other than that”. HOPE House will continue to be a place where he can feel welcome, drink some coffee and enrich the lives of those around him while doing so.