The first time I met my friend Mike Harvey, he was homeless. He wasn’t living out of his car, or so sick that he wanted to die anymore, but he was still very much what society would consider ‘on the skids.’
It was at a local soup kitchen where we first spoke a year and a half ago. I was on location at the Kelowna Gospel Mission covering a fundraising competition between local chefs for Shaw TV, and he was working as the dishwasher and living there as well. I saw him, and many of the mission’s residents that week, as well as the hungry people who came in for a hot, healthy meal. It was both heartbreaking to see people needing the help, and heartwarming to witness them getting it. In so many countries around the world, this wouldn’t happen.
Once my week of covering that story was over, Mike and I exchanged email addresses and vowed to stay in touch. I went back to my life with a newfound gratitude for the roof over my head and the love of my family, and he continued his journey of self-healing and the rebuilding of his life.
As depressed as he was when he first arrived at the mission, he wasn’t content doing nothing, and accepted a volunteer position working as their dishwasher. For about nine months he worked in the kitchen all day, seven days a week, while starting up a “Law of Attraction” support group that promotes emitting positive energy to attract more of the same.
“Mental attitude controls our thought patterns,” he said. “And I needed to change mine.”
He also needed to change his eating habits and had accomplished that.
Years prior Mike had contracted Lyme disease, which damaged his brain and left him feeling crazy. Unable to work for a long period of time, and living alone in his car in the U.S., his daughter eventually kidnapped him and brought him back home to Canada.
“I’m lucky she did that,” he said. “At that point I wanted to die.”
Extremely sick, and initially not knowing the reason, Mike had also developed an extreme sensitivity to MSG, which he found to be in almost everything. “It wasn’t until I started making juice with organic produce that I started to feel better,” he said.
He also discovered he had lead poisoning which he believes he got from the drinking water where he grew up. Ridding himself of that allowed him to improve his physical state, and the work he was doing on his mental health increased his possibilities.
He was offered a job at Rose’s Waterfront Pub, affording him the ability to move out of the shelter. He later applied his skills working at Home Depot and then started up his own handyman and contracting business in Calgary, where he had moved.
I had coffee with Mike this week while he was in town for his daughter’s wedding. He had just come from a volunteer shift at the Kelowna Gospel Mission where he visited some of his old “inmates” as he jokingly calls them.
“I think all these shelters should offer some kind of ‘Law of Attraction’ program,” he said. “And educate people on the chemicals they’re probably consuming. It could change their lives like it did for me.”
People become homeless for a variety of reasons, and they all have a story to tell. Thank goodness for places like Kelowna’s Gospel Mission and the Food Bank and all the wonderful people in the community who donate time, money or food. And thank goodness for someone like Mike Harvey, brave to share his experience. He’s a good reminder of how easy it can be to lose everything, and how important it is for us to help each other when needed.
For information on the homeless shelter visit: KelownaGospelMission.ca. To contact Mike visit: Call4Mike.ca
Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at www.LoriWelbourne.com