Excuse me Ma’am, I haven’t eaten for five days…

I was out for an early morning walk with Miss 1 in the pram this morning. It was a peaceful quiet stroll to the beach and back through the main street of our little country town. The roads were quiet and I passed only a handful of people starting their day with a walk or a run as I was.

I was coming up to an intersection when I noticed a man standing on the other side of the road. He wasn’t waiting to cross the road but rather just standing their, just waiting, looking across the road at me. I naturally considered continuing along the same side of the road to avoid him, (why do we automatically expect the worse from people?) but I had already committed to crossing and it would have looked obvious if I changed direction, I didn’t want that either.

So I crossed the road trying not to make eye contact but knowing that he was watching us. ‘Excuse me Ma’am’ he said in a very quiet and polite voice, ‘I haven’t eaten for 5 days and’ I cut him off ‘sorry I don’t have my wallet’ I replied abruptly and kept walking.

It’s little things like this that really get my mind ticking over. Perhaps I feel guilty. Where does he come from? Where did he sleep last night? I assume he is homeless, but is he? Who is his Mum? His Dad? Where are his family? How did he get to this place?

As I said he was very polite, clean and neatly dressed but had a very tried, sad look about his face.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not completely naive. I know full well that there are many homeless people living amongst us and you might never know it. I have been asked this same question times before when traveling. I remember women in Paris dressed in rags holding tiny babies, others holding wrapped up blankets as if it were a baby, pleading for money. I remember a small child in China, maybe 4 or 5, following my family asking for money before jumping onto my brothers trolley bag in an act of desperation. Both men and women with deformed bodies, maneuvering themselves around on skateboards begging, please, please.

Your heart sinks that anyone in the world lives like this, but what can we really do. An offer of food or money is often unfortunately too dangerous to commit to when traveling, especially alone, in a foreign country. And this morning I honestly did not have my wallet, but if I had, would I get it out in from of him? And does he really need money for food, or is it for something else entirely less innocent?

Something to think about anyway. Something to make you much more grateful for the things that we have. Something to make the things we long for just a little less important.

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