2014 November

17

Everyone Deserves a Second Chance

Daniel Berhane
Former Listening House Guest

The first day I entered Listening House, I was a depressed, angry young man filled with a potent, unholy mix of instability, frustration and hopelessness. I believed I was a burden with no value, a problem with no solution. Fresh out of jail, broke, and feeling a deep despair after learning my good friend died while I was incarcerated, and believing I had no future. Before coming to St. Paul, I had been homeless in the streets of Minneapolis after a felony conviction left me unemployed. Without work, I resorted to petty crimes to make some money and to keep my brain from thinking about the harsh realities of a world I believed lacked compassion. Getting a chance to live a good life seemed impossible at that point.

Listening House became a cocoon to my metamorphosis from a lowly worm stuck to the floor, into a graceful work of art. Listening House helped me rediscover love for the first time in a long time. Support, camaraderie and respect were abundant there – from the beautiful souls who served behind its counter to the struggling hearts of gold that received its services. After losing everything, Listening House gave me reasons to be thankful. Who knew that guitars, chess, couches, and clean clothes were enough to lift my spirit so much! My perception about life changed after basking in the tenderness and acceptance at Listening House. Listening House is more than a “living room for the homeless.” To me, Listening House is a like a military base positioned on the thin frontlines that separate enemy forces of hatred and self-destruction from heroic forces of self worth and goodwill. It was where I conquered my addiction to cigarettes and got into the best shape of my life, losing more than 50 pounds. It was where I learned the truth about success from accomplished businessmen and businesswomen who worked side by side with me as we volunteered to clean the bathrooms. No matter how hard I looked, I could not find outcasts. Everyone was accepted; no matter rich or poor, black, brown or white, Christian or Muslim. It shocked me to discover a wealthy business executive (weekly volunteer) would actually take time to answer my questions about the nature of success. I learned rich people are not much different from poor people because they had problems too. They taught me that even with the hardest problems and difficulties a person can still decide to extend a helping hand to others who are hurting. With this new sense of hope I began to give back.

I enrolled in college and became an honor student.

Listening House was like an emergency room for my heart and soul. It’s the place where I found another chance; it’s where I realized I can be a solution to the problem. Being part of Listening House empowered me and helped me believe again. It opened my eyes to accept the light of love and see myself as a winner.

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