Some say the world is always perfect, I take the view that everything is how it needs to be at any given moment. So with that in mind, I will relate an incident that happened the other day when my usual routine was altered in such a way that I may have been able to help a fellow human being.
Every other Friday is our Library Bus Walk, about a mile each way to where the library bus stops long enough that even with my vague timing I can catch it. On this occasion I was early and almost took a longer route, but decided against it and instead spent five minutes enjoying the spring flowers in the memorial garden opposite and finding pinecones for my daughter to play with. So we were earlier than normal, and had the bus mostly to ourselves.
One of the usual librarians was away so M didn’t have anyone to charm and play pat-a-cake with as she sometimes does while I browsed; then her crawlabout had to be limited by me after she emptied one too many shelves of books and she had to go back into her pushchair – not something I’ve had to do before. I was about to get our books checked out when a young man boarded the bus, struggling with crutches and the world in general.
I’m not really sure what led him to the library, but it was clear he was at breaking point. He said he wanted help to report two police officers who had mistreated him the evening before, and then laughed about it. No one would listen, no one would help, he had been homeless for five months, didn’t know where he was supposed to go or what he was supposed to do, had tried to kill himself twice this year already, no one wanted to know. The library staff didn’t either, suggesting he went to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Derby. Or Chesterfield. Or anywhere else, just please don’t bring your problems here, they wanted to say.
I felt quite sorry for him; the energy he was giving out was so negative and defensive that he was getting the same in return, yet he couldn’t see it. He was asked to moderate his language given there was a small child present, which he managed to do while reiterating his complaint that no one would listen to him. I asked if they could find him the number for the Samaritans. The driver gratefully made his escape to the laptop to search the web, and I went and engaged the young man in conversation for a few minutes, feeling completely useless as a counsellor (I’m not one) but hoping he’d calm down enough so that he wouldn’t do anything stupid immediately. We tried to think where there was a phone box, but could only remember where there used to be one, and the library staff would not allow him to use theirs. I didn’t have one… nor even any money to give him for a payphone, should he find one. Before leaving he asked if they had a Haynes manual on weightlifting. They didn’t carry Haynes manuals on the bus. But they could order him a copy. He would have to join the library they added, neglecting to mention that he would need an address to join.
He was encouraged out on the lift, despite the fact he wasn’t ready to leave, then I was delayed with smalltalk since my normal route home was they way he had taken. He smelled of cigarettes, the temp said; he obviously had money from somewhere. He might not have bought them himself was my reply. Besides he was a person too, and only a few steps away from us really. I’ve been poor, you don’t spend what you don’t have on fags, came the brittle rejoinder.
I walked home the long route, wondering if fate would see our paths cross so that our conversation could be continued, but it didn’t. I hadn’t given him much, just a phone number and a listening ear for five minutes, I could only hope it was enough.
An interesting comment from Landscape Angel in Call of the Trees by Dorothy Maclean (co-founder of Findhorn Foundation):
When you love one beech tree, for example, you love all beech trees, you are connected with the whole genus of beech. Even though it may be one particular specimen that brings out the love in you, that specimen is incapable of taking your regard to itself, and thus you are automatically linked up with the soul of that species. If the human kingdom could learn this quality, it would mean the end of war and rivalry, competition and strife.