It’s so easy to ignore the suffering that goes on all around us. Among the easiest of these to ignore is the homeless. I do it. We all do it. Not always, but we do it. It’s easier to pretend we haven’t seen them, or that sorry-I-really-haven’t-time-to-stop.
Tonight I was stopped by someone who needed to get to a particular place. He told me his bag had been stolen, that all of his belongings were in there – everything he owned in the world. 6 pictures of his parents that can never be replaced, 4 pictures of the dogs he had to give up when he started living on the streets. His phone.
He needed £12 to get somewhere, where he was going to have a place to stay, instead of sleeping in the rain, again. I gave him the change I had in my pocket – about £3, and hoped he would be able to find someone else to help him out, too. He told me his story. And it was a sad story, and not one I’m going to repeat here, but trust me when I say you wouldn’t want it to happen to anyone. But like the bag, I couldn’t know for sure if it was a yarn being spun to elicit sympathy, or if it was real. And then he pulled up his trouser leg and his leg was beaten and discoloured and bloody and it looked like infection had set in a long time ago. I mean, a LONG time ago. I reached into my wallet and pulled out the only note I had left in there – £10. He would at least be able to get to the place where he could stay overnight, tonight. I implored him to go to a hospital to get his leg looked at. It was truly horrific. The tale about the bag could have been false. The tale about the circumstances that led to him becoming homeless could have been false. The gratitude in his eyes that someone not only gave him a small bit of money, but also *listened* – that was one of the truest things I’ve ever encountered. So was the hug we shared.
I hope that man gets to where he needs to go. I hope he finds the help he needs – socially and medically. He’s going to haunt me for some time to come.
We can’t fix everyone all the time.
We can’t always give money.
And we can’t always give time.
But sometimes we can.