from Syria to Surbiton
Without a home the mental toll must be terrible.
Maybe my sympathy levels have been heightened by my own “moving woes”.
As I made my way to an Italian restaurant in Surbiton the “homelessness” issue hit me as I looked at a pitiful chap, with the mandatory mongrel sitting on the street corner.
It was a warm evening, and a crudely written cardboard sign proclaimed, “Hungry and Homeless, God Bless You”.
I walked right on by.
Inside the “Italian Restaurant” delightful East Europeans came to our assistance, offering their wares.
My colleague’s mobile rang, as he started taking notes my mind went back to the street corner.
“I too am homeless, but here I am enjoying life days away from a solution”.
Perhaps I could nip out and get him a meal?
I stepped outside, found a cash machine and extracted £50 and went back to the street corner.
It was dark, and well past 8:00pm and he was still begging.
I asked when he last had something to eat.
“Two days ago”
Would you like a burger?
I turned towards a street vendor, and heard “with mayo” as I walked across the road.
Moments later I was back with a small carrier bag with burger, chips, and Lucozade, and the fiver I’d been given as change. I knelt down beside him and started a conversation.
Picking up on his “God bless you” cue I mentioned that I too was homeless, but that together we could both enjoy a new home in heaven.
He started to tell me his story, sounding a bit like Tony Robinson who plays the inn keeper in Les Mis.
The voice, the eyes, they all looked pitiful, but then to my surprise he pulled out his Bible, looked up The Lord’s Prayer and shared how he went to church every Sunday looking for forgiveness.
The conversation went further, as he reached for his Gideon Testament, and shared some more.
My trip was worthwhile! Of all the people to bless, this one was a Christian.
As I turned to go he looked under his blanket, and sought out his burger but, instead drew out a pack of unopened sandwiches.
Had I been hoodwinked?
Back in the restaurant the phone call was in full flow, as I tucked into my starter.
We ate a good meal and walked around “that corner” again as we walked to the car.
“My beggar” was vacating his pitch, chatting to a mate. asking if he was “going home?”
He stood up tall, and in half light appeared to be donning a smart Rohan top and switching persona.
The words of “The Who” song came to mind.
“Won’t be fooled again”.