Wednesday 1 August 2007

Homeless Guy

Returning a DVD (3 days late) to the rental shop in Ranelagh, I decided to stay in the area to go to a coffeehouse I hadn't been to for a while. On my way to Coffee Society I passed a homeless man bundled up and leaning against a postbox. Not an unusual sight and almost easy to ignore with a little inward justification.

I walked a few meters further along the road when I heard a voice (mine? God's?) tell me to go back and ask the guy if he wanted a cup of coffee. He said he'd like a cup of tea so I was happy to oblige.

We spent a while chatting, initially about the book he was reading - one of three weighty novels he had recently purchased from a charity shop for a fiver, and then got on to talking a little about his past, his present situation and future hopes of returning to Vancouver. Although P. is from Ireland he has spent a good deal of his life in Canada where his family (including a son) still live. Too proud to admit that a run of unfortunate circumstances has put him on the streets he keeps his homeless status a secret in his monthly trans-Atlantic phone calls.

I wouldn't say that my encounter with P. was anything special for either of us, but I was struck by the fact that his eyes were clear, his speech made sense and wasn't full of fanciful tales, and he hadn't actually been asking people for money as they passed - he admitted to getting so engrossed in a book that he didn't realise the time passing.

It is very easy (and convenient) for me to judge that the homeless guy I see ahead of me as I walk along a street is there because he is either a drunk or a junkie.

Later in the coffeehouse, drinking a latte and reading a book about the inclusive ideal of church, I notice a woman placing an order for a smoothie and bagel who is wearing a t-shirt that says, 'Guilty until proven innocent'.

No comments: