16 August 2004

The Heart-warming Generosity of Friends

Nothing can match the heartwarming generosity of friends. Through unfortunate circumstances, I lost the right to keep my apartment in the center of Amsterdam and was forced to move immediately. What I learned through this experience was that the heart of friendship had more to do with the concept of home than that little apartment. Two of my dearest girlfriends opened their doors to their flats and studio. We are a group of creative, busy women who often do not find time for one another on a regular basis because of our commitments to our work and some pretty crazy travel schedules. What I have always really enjoyed about my friends is that we respect this distance and appreciate the time we do share with one another rather than complaining about the time we don't have to share.

After a couple of weeks of trying to sort out the emotional impact of packing and putting my life back into storage again, I had to figure out how to work and live out of suitcases. I was feeling seriously depressed � feeling rather lost and not sure where to turn. I was exhausted from moving and trying to find an affordable, new place to live as well as a new place to work. Amsterdam is very expensive and the choices are limited. If you don't own a place, you have two choices � the housing LIST, which has a very long waiting list, or the private sector, which is ridiculously expensive. I have a rather good chance at getting another place, but it will take time. As a foreigner without family here, where am I to live in the meantime?

A real understanding of the meaning and significance of homelessness began to scare me. I realized that this is how people without large cash reserves become homeless. How could something like this happen to me? A sense of panic set in and threw me off balance. Most of my life I have owned my own home and had a business. I realized then and there that homelessness has nothing to do with capabilities, it has to do with having enough quick cash reserves and open access to profitable social networks.

Two of my dear girlfriends came up with a solution for me. Since they both travel a lot, one gave me the keys to her studio and flat, and the other gave me the keys to her newly purchased first home. Considering the inconvenience and lack of privacy this creates for both of them, I couldn't believe their generosity. So here I am tripping back and forth between these places as they travel, able to continue my work and also luxuriate in the living and working space of two dear friends.

Where would we be without the generosity of friendship? Friends show up bearing the most wonderful and unexpected gifts.

Anyway, thank you, Sarah - and thank you, Renee. I now understand the true value of social capital.


Ton said...

....homelessness has nothing to do with capabilities, it has to do with having enough quick cash reserves and open access to profitable social networks.....

I think you hit the nail right on the head there. It has everything to do with your social context. Nobody has to live on the streets in NL, I think, but when you hear the stories of those who nevertheless do, it has more often than not something to do with a sudden disappearance of security in the from of social networks, or the lack of cash to bridge a rough patch. That combined with an assortment of addiction (often fallen into after hitting the streets) and psychological disorders also effectively keeps them on the streets, unless they find their way back into the system which is often bewildering, and the system totally unappreciative of the peculiarities of living on the streets.

Colby said...

Ton...Amsterdam is a funny place regarding homelessness. Here homelessness has so many faces, including the one of isolation. Isolation is most dangerous because it quickly passes into habit and people retreat into its false sense of safety and self-protection. Many of the homeless are foreigners outside the safety net in place for Nederlanders. One day they're working and the next day they have no place to live, start missing work and all of a sudden their world crashes in.