This is about the homeless person I met
|Do you ever meet people and wonder how old they are? Sometimes it is really obvious. They just say hello and you have a whole life story in your head about them. How old they are, the things they like, the kind of person they are. Other people are more mysterious and it may take a lifetime and perhaps not even then will you get to know the real them. One such person who I may never really know is the homeless lady at the tube station near where I study. I guess at what her name is …Sarah, Tanya…after knowing her for over a month I still don’t know. I thought it would be too forward of me to ask. Instead whenever I meet her my only question to her is:
“Would you like some tea?”
When we first met she used to exchange a few words. More mumblings than actual words I think. Now she just nods at my question and I methodically proceed to open my flask and pour out some tea. I wish I could say it was hot tea; it used to be when I first started visiting the homeless around my university. But then I realized that they have ‘timings’ when they are out sitting at the tube stations. So these days by the time I get to university, the rush hour is over and they are gone to who knows where for the rest of the day…So I meet this lady usually on my way home. Sadly by then the tea is cold. At first I did not realize that the tea was so cold by the end of the day. I thought because it was in a flask it would stay warm. But once I tasted some, and I am not a tea drinker, but I knew it was just plain awful!
Since then I have been feeling guilty for giving this poor person a gift of cold tea. A few days ago I apologized for the state of the tea. I felt so bad. But there is nothing I can do about it. Some days I go early to her ‘spot’ so that I can give her the tea when it is warm, but she is not there.
So after giving her the tea. I say the same two words:
And leave her to her life on the street. I sometimes try to talk to her. I think she may appreciate a few words or a smile. I don’t know if my smile is one of pity, sadness, or fondness. I have wondered if given different circumstances we may have been friends. At present my role as ‘helping the homeless’ has led to a mixture of emotions. I feel happy to help, and yet sad every time I leave her there. I sometimes feel guilty for giving such a small gift and at other times I feel the fool. You see the papers are always full of stories about ‘professional beggars.’ I wonder if they are all just making money out of this, and spending their days, warm inside in front of the TV…I know it is a crazy thought. I just think it sometimes. To see her you would know it was crazy. She sits on a filthy street, in freezing temperatures and she is probably a good few stone below anything resembling a healthy weight.
Why is she there? I so often wonder. I know it is not for me to ask. I am there to help. I don’t want to trouble her with questions…I don’t know what brought me to helping the homeless. I would pass them all the time, and one day God made it easy for me to help them. Before then I thought I had nothing to give them (I am a student, with no job and no income). I would also be quite afraid of them. I would think they were all drunks and dangerous. But now I think that homeless people are a lot more than what they appear. I imagine this lady pushing a pram in the park just across the street. Come spring she could be enjoying the fine weather, traveling to work on the tube. She could be just like anyone else. That thought struck a chord in me and now I truly feel for the homeless. I wish that I, and we as a society could, and would do more for them. These people have so little in their lives and we have so much. I am grateful to God for all that he has given me.
Will I continue with my work? It is hard. I cannot explain. I wonder if I stop, will she care or mind? Is it OK to not bring tea one day or should I do it every day? Sometimes I find it physically and emotionally a bit too much. There are days when I walk past like everyone else does. I do not sit on the ground and ask her if she would like some tea. My heart is full of guilt on those days. It is a cold world outside, in more ways than one.