Can You?

Northern Ireland seems to be in a state of permanent darkness at present. When I wake up it’s dark, cold, wet and windy. I go to work and sit in an office all day. With no windows. Then I come home. It’s dark, cold, wet and windy. The only time I encounter daylight is on my lunchtime run. When it’s slightly less dark but still cold, wet and windy. Has the Arctic Circle been moved south without anyone telling us?

These conditions affect us all but at least I have a warm house to go home to at night. On my walk to and from the office I feel sad for the growing number of rough sleepers who I pass. I stopped the other day and gave a few pounds to one of my homeless friends, Inesa. She was huddled outside the train station with her dog, Poppy. Poppy is in immaculate health. Shiny coat, wet nose and well fed. Inesa, not so much.

You see, Inesa puts her dog’s health before her own. She told me she has had a flu for three weeks and her boyfriend, Vladimir, was too ill to venture down into the town from the park where they sleep at night, when they don’t have the £40 needed to stay in a bed and breakfast. Inesa is too scared to stay in a hostel because of the hassle she gets from another girl, Maria.

Maria told me a different story, of course. The truth is an evasive commodity and I have to take everything I’m told with a generous pinch of salt. I’m minded to believe Inesa, though. She is always sober, polite and humble when I see her. She never asks for anything and when I do offer to help, she always accepts it reluctantly. She once told me she felt bad taking money from me, as I have children to look after.

Inesa is on a journey, as am I, and our paths have chosen to cross on the drab streets of Belfast. The aforementioned Maria is the inspiration behind the character of Meredith Starc, in the book I’m just finished, but there’s a dash of Inesa in there as well. Meredith also has that humility and pride, despite her circumstances. I told Inesa this once and she laughed with genuine delight, that she would end up in a novel.

I was running along the Lagan Towpath yesterday, accompanied by two rowers who cut a swathe through the water to my left. All three of us were working hard. I was pumping my legs while their arms strained to propel themselves along. It was a fairly even contest. At times I was ahead of them, while on other occasions they forged into the lead. But, we were all heading in the same direction.

My prayer and hope today is that Inesa, Maria, Vladimir and all the other rough sleepers in Belfast, continue on their allotted journeys, with brighter times ahead. And if this post can prick the conscience of one person today to show kindness and love to similar folk in their own town and city, then my work is done. They deserve better and I know I can do more. Much more. Can you?

29 thoughts on “Can You?

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  1. No one can help everyone, but someone can help someone. Thanks for your post. I love the compassion and the care that goes into your writing. And know that someone is being touched by you every day. That’s tangible faith in action.

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  2. This hit home with me, as I recently drove under a bridge in Louisville where many homeless stay. It’s hard to know how to help the ones you just see but don’t know. Are they addicts? con artists? criminals? decent people down on their luck? I try to carry gift cards for the fast food places with me to give to the ones who are truly hungry.
    I recently got to know a lady who breaks every stereotype of a homeless person. I was surprised to learn that she has a master’s degree and that she cared for her aging parents until they died. She starts a new job today, so please say a prayer for her. I’m not sure how she pulled off the application, when she has no address, but where there’s a will…

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  3. I appreciate your post. That’s very kind of you to reach out to those less fortunate. I like your writing style – you write well. Glad to hear you have a book coming out. 🙂
    I once visited Northern Ireland – I experienced the darkness there. I’m glad you are spreading the Light and Love.
    BTW, I have a border terrier too! Her name is Bailey.Thanks for liking my post, “Help Me, Holy Spirit!” 🙂

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  4. So I read this yesterday, realised that you are one of the good people out there and in my feeble little mind, this rather accentuated the fact that I am a self absorbed narcissist. So, in order to do a bit of good, I scrabbled around the house, found an old Army jacket thing of the Colonel’s (well I hope it’s no longer needed otherwise I’m in the soup, but it’s very wind and water proof), a very soft fleece blanket that I had bought my late mother and have been struggling to part with but know that I’ll never use it, and a load of toiletries from flights … toothpaste etc etc. I packed up Claude with all this and headed off towards the station to the usual hangouts of the homeless … BUT THERE WAS NOBODY THERE. I searched high and bloomin’ low, thought I’d found one, but he turned out to be a window cleaner and had to bring all my stuff back again. I promise I shall try again on Monday. I shall try to be a better person and not so caught up in my own ridiculous first world problems.

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  5. My path rarely crosses a homeless person, although I know they are here. I am moved that you actually know Inesa so well, that you take the time to talk to her, and inquire about her life. Hey! I could write a blog post on that! Love you both, Cindy

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