Tag Archives: Humbling

A humbling experience.

I feel tired, irritable and I’m dreading work today. I’m at the bus stop and the bus isn’t due for ten minutes, so I sit and take out my kindle. I had been reading I bed last night but I was half-asleep so I have to skip back several pages to where I actually remember having read. I’m just about to get stuck into the story again when an old man walks up to the bus stop and stares up at the digital display.
“The next one’s due in eight minutes”, he says to me. I nod politely but hope he gets the hint I’m not in the mood to talk. He sits next to me. “I can’t get the hang of this new timetable”, he says to me with a chuckle. “Me neither”, I say whilst raising my kindle up to make sure he sees it. He’s oblivious to it though. “I gotta go into town to get the fast train to Oxford. Can’t be doing with the slow train. I go every Friday, to take food to my nephew…” I nod. “…he’s an alcoholic you see”. I fold up my kindle.
I turn towards this man now. I realise this is a big deal to him and here I am, more concerned about reading a story that, so far, hasn’t even been that good.
“I can’t give him money”, he continues, “he’d only spend it on drink. So every week I take him food. If you met him you’d think butter wouldn’t melt, but he’s lost everything to drink and now he’s just in a horrible little flat. He’s been evicted three times and I’ve pleaded with the council to let him stay where he was but it’s the drink, it makes him so angry, so violent”. I feel a bit stunned that this man is telling me all this but ask “Has he done rehab”? The man smiles sadly, “We’re trying to get him a place, but we’ve been trying a long time. Comes down to money in the end”. I nod again, not sure what to say anymore. “I’m all he has now, he’s got no-one else but me. My sons have a go at me for helping him, they think I should leave him well alone. See, his mum – my sister – she asked me to look after him for three weeks because she couldn’t cope…”.
Then he looks me in the eye with a sad smile. “…that was twenty four years ago. I’m eighty one, he’s fourty five. He should be looking after me”!
We both sit in silence for a while. I’m thinking about how I’ve begrudged having to give for other people lately, how selfish I’ve been in comparison – even trying to avoid giving this guy some of my time. And twenty four years! Twenty four years of being let down – cos that’s what happens again and again with addicts. After a long pause he looks at me with that sad grin again and says:

“Everyone needs someone to look after them”.

The bus is coming, we both stand up. I signal for him to get on first. As he goes through the doors, he turns and says, “have a good day anyway, young’un”!
Then he goes straight up the stairs, despite the fact several of the usual ‘pensioner’ seats are free downstairs.

I think Rooney smiles more than Lampard…

Today, I met a blind man.

I was working at a centre for the blind and upon arriving was invited to find a seat. I noticed this man sat on his own, with his head down, and thought I’d sit with him.

I introduced myself and he told me his name too. Then suddenly, he thrust his specially adapted mobile phone in my direction. ‘Know anything about mobiles, mate?’, he said. His phone had gone onto silent mode somehow, and without audible signals he had no way of knowing how to rectify it. (MAJOR design flaw, right there).

We got chatting and he told me, in his soft and quiet voice, he had lost his sight a couple of years ago. Before that, he had a job, a marriage, a family and was a mad football fan. Upon losing his sight, he literally lost everything. The more he told me, the more gutted I felt.

And for some reason, I found it even harder as we talked about football. We told each other which teams we support, and debated about players, managers and results. Then he said to me, ‘that striker you’ve got – Cisse – what’s he look like? Is he tall or short? Is he stocky or what?’ For some reason, this really got to me. He was clearly still an avid fan; he listened to games and followed the news stories. But he had been robbed of a huge part of football. I thought of how commentators rave about Messi – arguably the best player in the world. This guy will have heard all the hype, but he can’t see the footwork and skill. The incredible balance, trickery and control that I get to see when I watch Messi, he has to try and piece together from the few stock phrases most commentators use during the game. So we sat and he named players. If I knew who he was talking about, I described them. He asked about Rooney and Lampard – who was tallest, who was better in the air, who smiled more? Then we talked about games and players he had seen before he lost his sight, and how they compared to now. And I found myself choking up a little.

Predictably, I began berating myself for taking what I have for granted. For the rest of today, I kept thinking about this and I think I have stopped berating myself! I’m sure he took his sight for granted too, until he lost it. And I’m not sure it’s possible to live life without taking things for granted, to blame myself for this is unreasonable and I’m sure he’d agree with me.

One thing, however, will stay with me for a long time though. And that is the gracious and kind smile he gave me when I told him he’d love our local stadium because it has great, unobstructed views.