“HIYA! Where you been?” he said with great familiarity, welcoming me on Buchanan Street, “haven’t seen ya in a while”.
I stopped and surveyed the young man’s fresh face, his genuine happiness at seeing me, and in that moment I marvelled in our common humanity. I first saw Michael* years ago, sitting on a pavement or other begging, eyes distant with drug, younger then his haggard appearance would let on. I stopped then, as I often do, just to say hello, to offer a moment of… something else… to him. I never knew, know, if it made/makes any difference but I do it all the same. Not least because it makes me better.
And yet I was surprised to be remembered. All the thousands of people he subsequently went on to sell ‘The Big Issue’ to, and whatever chaos and discovery he had along the way is a mystery to me, but I do ‘know’ him in a way.
So yesterday his welcoming was another lovely moment in my Glasgow experience, and he looked really good- eyes clear and… happy. And for that I was thrilled. I told him so. He was quite humble about the… everything.
“Oh it’s a long way yet, still have some stuff I need to sort out, clear…”
It is terrible to witness any human suffering; there must be some kind of empathy that happens. Maybe that’s why we often numb ourselves to actually seeing “those people” sitting on the side of the road, because we actually see that potential in ourselves. And that’s true. We are all made of the same stuff, and as such, the possibilities for us to be homeless, be drug-addicted and lose ‘everything’, are just as possible. Our denial is a reflection of our own fear. And our fears justify unimaginable suffering. I think about this a lot.
We need so very little for life, all the needs are contained within us, and between us. Yet we create massive structures that mask the essential quality for life, prop up facades masking dis-ease.
There is an old adage, ‘see the other as you’ – and if we all could take the time to prop up someone else, and elevate yourself, and the…’vibes’… of the whole world.
We have so much anger, so much fear… of what I ask you? Take an individual step, take the time.
Love is an action, not a philosophy. And I know I’m asking myself, – how can I live that today?
Before Michael and I parted company I told him about my Argentina plans, about selling everything to travel the world.
“That sounds great!” he said, “you know I’ll miss you, I really will”.
Michael, you’ve made my life better, and I can’t thank you enough, I wish you all the happiness and health of life.