Dublin City is no stranger to the homeless. The crisis is so bad that one can barely walk down the street without seeing at least one poor soul sitting in the cold weather begging for money.
A year ago I started my Legal Studies diploma, funded by the company I work for. I parked near the college in the city, and every Tuesday and Thursday evening there was always someone begging outside the door of the car park. I came to know an old man who would usually be there when I was coming back from class. He was always so cheerful, even if people walked by him without a second glance, he wished them well.
I gave him what I could and he would always wish me a safe journey home. The first time he did this, I regretfully replied with “you too”.
Last week the weather was particularly bitter and it looked as though his hands were frozen to the paper cup he was holding. He assured me that he had somewhere to go that evening and I hope that was true.
It’s my last week of college this week, so rarely will I be back to that car park, especially in the evening. I decided to buy him a pair of thermal gloves and a scarf. I brought them with me on Tuesday evening and purchased a packet of three sandwiches on my way back to the car park. To my disappointment, he wasn’t there. It wasn’t unusual, there had been a few instances in the past year when he wasn’t there. I ran back around to the shop I purchased the sandwiches and gave them, along with some money, to a homeless woman sitting outside it.
Last night was my final class and I once again purchased a packet of sandwiches for the man. There was someone in his spot but it wasn’t him. Optimists might say he’s getting the help he needs and perhaps he doesn’t need to beg anymore. The pessimists, like me, might say something bad has happened. I gave the sandwiches to the man in his place and I’ve vowed to hold onto the scarf and gloves until my exams in two weeks just in the off-chance that he might be there.
I’m not saying helping the homeless is some kind of treatment for depression, I’m not even looking for recognition for helping them. What I want to highlight is a man who basically has nothing and spends his evenings out in the cold weather looking for pittance and yet still smiles and wishes the people he encounters well. In spite of his woes, this man still finds something to smile about.