I haven’t written for a while and I felt the matter that I would post about today ought therefore to be an important issue.
I usually blog about writing but I also talk about life and the importance of communication.
I don’t think I ever felt how vital human words and actions were until last week.
I had been at a concert with my long-suffering better half and we passed a homeless man sitting tucked up in his sleeping bag, on church steps.
He asked for a light and something about him made me stop to talk. I don’t know what it was…I think it was that he looked like he didn’t belong, that he wasn’t accustomed to living on the streets, not that I can imagine anyone could ever adjust to such a life.
Something in him also reminded me of a family member, someone I care very dearly for.
Whatever told me to stop…I stopped and spent the next hour and a half that warm summer evening on a Dublin street, chatting to this man.
He told me his name and as it turned out my instincts had been right. He hadn’t been on the streets long – only three weeks.
I don’t want to go in to too much detail about this man’s story because I believe he entrusted this information with me and my boyfriend but I would like to tell the tale in the hope that others will do as we did and talk to the homeless.
I will call this man ‘Patrick’. He was a father and had like so many, fallen in to a life of alcohol-dependence.
He had left home after a family trauma and found himself living on the steps of the church. He didn’t seem to know his way home and instead as he clutched a wooden crucifix round his neck, ‘Patrick’ spoke about how he wanted to die.
The words just spilled out of his mouth, just as all the others had. He spoke about suicide as though it was a normal thought, something that he wanted.
But when I reminded him of his family, how they would miss him, how indeed I would now miss him, how people did love him, I noticed his voice break.
He was reminded suddenly in the darkness that he mattered. He wasn’t just a statistic. He was a father, a man, a husband, a son.
Tears welled in ‘Patrick’s’ eyes as he spoke of his family. He told how lost he was, how reliant he was on alcohol but that he had come to the “House of God” for a place to shelter him in his time of need.
I begged ‘Patrick’ not to go through with his dark wishes and to believe me that he was loved, to believe there was still so much to live for.
I told him that if the sun rose on his face in the morning and he still felt as badly, then he was to contact me and I left my details.
I asked him if he didn’t feel the need to speak to me again, then I would hope he had gone home to his family to work through his problems.
I gave ‘Patrick’ a hug and told him once again I cared what happened to him, as I genuinely did and do.
He thanked my boyfriend and I for stopping to speak. “You are the first to speak to me in three weeks,” he said.
That realisation startled me. Only months after a homeless man, Jonathan Corrie, died only metres away from the Irish parliament (The Dail) last winter, it appeared people had forgot to talk to all homeless people.
Mr Corrie died tragically on a step on a cold winter’s night. I wondered had anyone spoke to him that day.
‘Patrick’ said that just our talking to him had “helped me,” that just communicating with others, us seeing him as our equal, a human being, had been of more value than money or any prize.
I haven’t heard from ‘Patrick’ since and though I still worry for him and for the hundreds of homeless people across the country and thousands across the globe, I have one hope.
If we, as a society, a world, could open our hearts a little more. If we could speak to the homeless, even if it’s only for a few minutes, we might just remind them they are human beings too, and are every bit as important as you or I.
Maybe a “Hello” or a “How are you?” might change their day.
I know we can’t save the world and everyone on this great big ball of confusion, but we can say “Hello” and we certainly can smile.
If we all remember, you or I could be ‘Patrick’ or Mr Corrie one day, maybe we would realise just how important humanity is and indeed it is a prize worth more than any money on earth.
Keep that promise please …and talk to the homeless,
Thanks and stay happy,