He saw him every morning and evening – smartly dressed in his sharp business suit, bold tie, shoes so shiny you could see your face in them and his briefcase. He always looked harassed, red faced and on the verge of having a meltdown. Some days he had a Starbucks cup in his hand, others it was a copy of the Metro. He wondered where he was rushing off to with such urgency. Probably a busy office or a stockbrokers, right in the heart of the city.
He wondered if the smart man ever saw him. Everyone seemed to rush around at 100 miles an hour these days and it felt as though nobody had time for each other, let alone give a thought to someone homeless. He’d spent 6 months living on the street now. If he was lucky, he managed to get into the shelter for the night but with the cold weather creeping in it was getting increasingly difficult to get in. He remembered back to the time when he was rushing; to a job; back home; to meet friends for a drink; he never remembered seeing people in situations like he was now in. It saddened him when he thought back to his old life but that was the past and he now had to concentrate on the future and getting himself back on track…somehow. He was proud that he had not turned to alcohol or drugs in those 6 months although temptation was always near.
These two men were a complete contrast of each other’s lives and yet neither of them realised they had similarities in other ways. The smart man earned more money than his wife could spend, the homeless man hardly had two pennies to rub together and relied on the kindness of people to drop a few coins into his hat. The smart man was always “suited and booted” whilst the homeless man sat in jeans that had seen better days, trainers that had holes in them and a woolly hat that a stranger had given him a couple of nights ago when Jack Frost had paid his first visit of the winter. Yet they were both lonely, yes the smart man had a wife but they never had time for each other. The homeless man went days sometimes never having a full conversation with someone other than “have you got any change” and “thanks”. The smart man had a beautiful home in a leafy suburb of London, it had several bedrooms, a huge kitchen, a gym and pool plus a cinema room. The homeless man had a sleeping bag, a couple of cardboard boxes plus his small rucksack where he’d managed to keep a few sentimental items from his previous life yet he never allowed himself to look at the photos. They were both kind hearted, wanting to do right by everyone. They both worked hard in their jobs, keen to earn the money to enable them to live a more comfortable life, unlike the upbringing they’d both experienced where money was tight and families were strained.
By the time the smart man got home he was exhausted, barely able to make conversation with his wife let alone do anything else. She always wanted to go out, have a meal or a drink with friends – why couldn’t she just stay home, relax watching something mindless on the TV. Didn’t she understand that he was busy and important? He left home at 6.30am every day and often didn’t get home til 8pm. He wasn’t getting any younger and was finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the young guys coming up through the ranks. Whilst at home one particular chilly evening, stood in the kitchen with a G&T in his hand that his wife had made, he listened to his wife complaining about something insignificant – Louise from the golf club hadn’t turned up to the luncheon she had arranged, didn’t Louise appreciate how difficult it was to get the ladies together…her words turned into white noise and his mind started to drift.
He thought about the homeless man he’d seen on the journey home that evening . He was always so busy rushing around to get to that damn job that left him feeling drained that he didn’t always see the other man but often wondered what had happened to him that left him homeless, and living on the streets. Surely he had some family or friends he could turn to? The nights were certainly getting colder and he shivered at the thought of spending a cold, lonely night out there, on his own, unsure of who to trust and where to go.
The following morning, the smart man got up extra early although he’d hardly slept all night thinking about the other man. He grabbed an old rucksack he had used when they had gone trekking in Peru (his wife’s choice, not his – his idea of a holiday was to sit on a beach, read a book, have some decent food and wine and forget about the office) and started to pull some warm sweaters, tshirts, socks and walking boots he’d had no need for. He rushed downstairs and pulled various packets from the fridge and cupboards and put those in another bag.
The journey on the tube took forever, he had a feeling of nervousness in his tummy about seeing the homeless man. How would he react, would he accept these new clothes and food or would he just prefer some money to spend on alcohol and quite probably drugs.
Just before the entrance of the tube, he stopped in Starbucks like had every other morning for the last 2 years where the barista knew his order before he opened his mouth. The smart man asked for 2 coffees this morning, plus a breakfast baguette and a fruit pot.
He was going to help the homeless man, one way or another. He strode purposely on towards the exit, still his tummy fluttered with nerves, “come on”, he told himself, “pull yourself together”. As he got outside, he look around but couldn’t see the homeless man anywhere. He walked up and down the road a couple of times, incase he was somewhere else. Nothing. After 10 minutes of searching, he made his way to the office and stored the rucksack and bag under his desk – he’d try again tonight.
That evening, he went through the same process as the morning – again the homeless man was nowhere to be seen. Feeling deflated, he got back on to the tube with his bags and would made a conscious decision that he would try again tomorrow.
2 weeks passed, with the smart man leaving earlier than usual, laden up with the rucksack of clothes, searching for the man he desperately wanted to help and yet he never saw the homeless man again…
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