The other night I went to the 10th Annual Homeless Memorial. Once a year this motley community gathers to remember those ‘streeties’ or ‘parkies’ who have passed away. You can get hot soup, a hot dog, and warm clothes are available to take away. But it is about more than that. We are offered an opportunity to reflect on those people with whom we create connections, those with whom we feel ‘at home’, regardless of any material shelter. We remember those who now or have in the past offered light or warmth to our lives. Voice is given to the pain of separation from parents, siblings, children, society. Voice is given to the pain of decisions that cannot be unmade, things which cannot be unsaid and knowledge that we cannot go back – only forward. A humble gratitude is offered to ‘the people from the organisations represented here’, supported with warm applause from the crowd in and around the marquee.

We sing: songs we all know the words to. We don’t need song sheets. We cradle our lit candles and sprigs of rosemary.

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you don’t let show
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

They say we stand for nothing and
There’s no way we ever could

Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change
It’s hard to beat the system
When we’re standing at a distance
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change

We hold a minute’s silence, and it is deep and rich and full. There are names unspoken…tears unshed…and hope unlooked for. We only need to look around to know we are not alone in this grief. We only need to look around to have more than our hunger fed, our coldness clothed… instead we know the truth. We are not strangers to one another as we thought. And a last a cappella chorus rings out…

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see