Two weeks ago whilst out shopping with my husband I saw an old man selling The Big Issue.He was happily shouting out season’s greetings to anybody and everybody who would listen and was accompanied by his sidekick a lovely little Jack Russell.
I later learnt from speaking to this man that the dog was called Jack, aptly named so that he wouldn’t get confused about his identity.
Now like I do with all Big Issue sellers I purchased a copy and then told him to keep it. Not because I am not interested in the content but so they have more stock to sell.
For the purpose of this blog I am not going to use his real name as he does not know I am writing about him, so we will call this man Harry. I asked Harry if he was hungry and if so would he like something to eat? He wasn’t hungry but said he would ” love a hot drink” and could he have 8 yes you read that correctly” 8 sugars please?” . Apparently he only has one tooth and it’s a “ sweet un “.
Whilst my husband purchased Harry his Hot Chocolate, Harry and I started chatting. We spoke about how long he had owned Jack for, who was at this point wrapped up nice and warm on Harry’s lap, he looked happy and content and above all else he looked loved. Harry had owned Jack for 4 years , he purchased Jack with the little bit of money he had at that time from another homeless man whom so desperate for his next fix of drugs sold Jack( who was then only 2 years old) to Harry for just twenty pounds.
Harry had a kind face and I wondered what his story was and how he became to live on the streets but it wasn’t my place to ask I had no right to delve. In my head however I was planning on going to Boots and putting together a welfare pack for him. You know some toothpaste deodorant etc, things that to him might not be a priority to buy but that he might have liked.
But then as I asked him what he was doing for Christmas Day, it dawned on me, I would ask him what he wanted for Christmas.
His reply not only shocked me, it also made me angry.
“ I would like a fishing rod “ he said. ” I love fishing and I use to do it all the time and I miss it”. He went on to explain that it was impossible to have things like that now , as his tent would be robbed as soon as he left it and his beloved rod would be sold within the hour.
Here he sat homeless, with just a friend called Bob (if he can find him he went missing a month ago) his precious little dog and The Salvation Army to spend Christmas Day with. And all he wanted if he could have one present would be a fishing rod so he and Jack could spend the day by the river.
I felt so humbled by this man, and also ashamed of myself. I was about to go off and buy him stuff to wash with .How wrong could I have been so wrong about this mans simple needs.
I looked at him and felt powerless, if I had lived nearby I would have happily have given him a shed to use with a lock where he could keep his things and be happy in the knowledge that nobody could steal them from him.
So why is there nothing? Why is there not a place where homeless people down on their luck can store basic things to enjoy? We have lockers available to us so we can pick up our deliveries etc. Why is there nothing for the homeless ? I would love to make this a thing.
And if there is something in Peterborough then please let me know because I will buy that man a rod so he can sit by the river and enjoy such a simple desire once again for the time he has left .
Before I left I did however go and purchase Harry a thick tartan scarf and returning I wrapped it around his neck and wished him a Merry Christmas. He smiled and with grateful eyes thanked me. I wish I could have dome more for him that day and I really hope that one-day he gets to fish by the river again I really do.
Harry taught me one thing, never think you know what somebody needs, don’t judge him or her by his or her social status and put them in a box with the same needs as others in a similar position because you may be further than the truth than you could ever realise.