By Heidi Shrimpton, ex SPEAR staff
Sometimes things happen that remind you why we do what we do and I wanted to share this.
I wouldn’t normally be in the office on a Friday night, but our big 30th Anniversary event was imminent. There I was drowning in spreadsheets, guest lists, emails and a stack of precariously placed auction prizes behind my desk.
Then there was a ring at the SPEAR door. Unable to let the rough sleeper standing outside into the building out of hours with no staff, I shouted through the door. “I am really sorry, but we’re closed”. I heard another knock and saw a friendly but pale, weathered face with clear blue eyes pressed against the glass – pleading for a response.
There stood an elderly man bent over a crutch, silver haired, tired – he’d obviously endured a long painful walk to reach SPEAR’s front door. He told me he’d just got out of hospital, had two hip operations, and is sleeping rough.
I listened to this man, old enough to be my parent – imagining my own parents in this situation. He said he gets beaten up on the streets, has nowhere to sleep tonight. His kind nature reminded me of the film ‘I Daniel Blake’. No doubt he’d been a good friend, parent, employee once – before ill health had turned against him and perhaps with that, the loss of a job.
Can I get you some food? “If you could get me a glass of water love” he said in his Irish lilt. He didn’t ask for more, just a glass of water. I scrabbled around our donations; found food, drinks, toothpaste. Then I realised the poor man was still standing – he was so weary. In the doorway of SPEAR, he slumped, exhausted upon the chair I offered him and the drink barely touched the sides – it was a scorching summer’s evening. His crumbling plastic carrier bag was replaced with a thermal cool bag I had been storing behind my desk. Then I scavenged around the dregs of my handbag and found him a few pounds for his oyster and a silver spoon from the kitchen to eat his beans.
Really it was nothing at all. Yet the look of this man. “You’re so kind he said, so kind, I’m so grateful”. “ I thought you’d give me a plastic spoon” he said smiling, “not a silver one oh and that’s a good bag”. “Really it’s nothing”, I said. ‘Something is better than nothing’ he said. “I can get the bus to Hounslow now on Monday”. Thank you, thank you so much lovey.
I went back to my lists, my spreadsheets, my pile of organised chaos and remembered, this is why we do what we do. I hope he makes it back on Monday.
Something is better than nothing