I am sitting in the City, waiting for a client to join me. A homeless man wonders up to me, looking for a few dollars to sustain himself. (With what, I don’t ask but it doesn’t matter! My philosophy is that if I have it and they don’t I will gladly help out.)
As I am looking around my large bag to find my coins, I ask him his name. Joe, he replies. It bet it’s not but that doesn’t matter either. He asks me mine and I tell him.
He shows interest in why I am hanging around a street corner. I explain I am waiting for a client. I ask him why he is hanging around a street corner. He says ‘because I am homeless’. I sit at the bus stop and he takes the seat next to me and for the next 7 minutes we talk. He is down on his luck. He is 32 (and in the prime years of his life, I believe.) A set of tragic circumstances has got him to where he is today and his story is chequered with loss, sadness and grief.
We talk about resilience and I explain what it is. We talk about what has to happen to get the passion for life back and how to do it. The bottle has become a regular friend for him to drown the pain. We talk about how to overcome this close friendship with his bottle.
He asks me what work I do and then strangely, asks me my qualifications. Weird question, I thought. I ask him what his are. My jaw almost had to be dragged off the pavement floor when he tells me he has a Masters in Math and Chemistry and – wait for it – a PhD in Animal Science.
I told him to believe in himself and use all the fantastic skills he has (with support) to live a great life. He smiles at me as he walks away.
The point is: never assume that because somebody looks a particular way, that you know where they come from or the road they have travelled. Because you don’t!
What’s your story?