You’re walking to the train station. Your left hand rests on the top of your satchel bag while your right swings freely in the wind. Finally finished work. You’re calculating your dinner options. Whatever it is you’ll spend it rugged up on the couch watching your second round of Game of Thrones. Your fireplace will soothe the room with dancing shades of amber. A smile stretches your lips at the thought. And then your smile wanes as your eyes focus on the man resting on the wall. The same man covered in years of turmoil and regret, which hasn’t changed since the last time you saw him.
How do you react this time? You want to help him like you did before, but you don’t have change. Well, not coins at least. You could buy him some fruit at the nearby stand, but what if he doesn’t want it? Foot traffic weaves around you as you slow your pace. Some acknowledge the human being perched on the wall, sitting on a cushion that has seen better years. But you, you’re the only one really looking. You want to feel grateful for this, but you can only pity him.
The homeless man’s head is weighed down by clumpy long hair; his eyes indifferent to his gritty crossed legs. Eventually, the crowd grows strong, beckoning you to move along. The eyes of men in suits don’t seem to care for the cross-legged man beside them. But they do care about your presence in the middle of the footpath.
In another heartbeat, you merge back into the wave of the crowd, and in no less than a minute your thinking about the radiating warmth of your living room again. You’re thinking about the schnitzel you just remembered needs cooking, and eating it with mash and veggies. You’re thinking about Cersei Lannister and how she’ll survive. Not because your selfish, but simply because the world goes on.
But you will remember him. Two day’s from now you’ll buy him an apple and you’ll ask him his name. You’ll learn that his favourite colour is blue. You’ll learn that he can be selfish. And you’ll learn that he wants to be a writer, telling stories that matter. Another day will go by and you will approach him with a pen and a notebook — stationery you “freed” from work. And little will you know that this selfless act will give him the power to write a great story, landing him on the path to recovery.
And you wont do it for him. Not completely. You will do it for the men in suits. The people who carelessly walk past, all sharing the same detached expression. Because deep down you know they aren’t completely selfish, they just don’t know how to help. And now they will.
This story was written for Homelessness Week Australia, a national holiday raising awareness for those without a permanent home. For ideas in helping the homeless, read my article.