The time a homeless man gave me money

I’ve had enough of hurting, I’ve had enough of crying so today, let’s go back to 2008 and re-visit a memory that makes me smile, ok?

Photo by MART PRODUCTION

I had moved back to Perth (woohoo) while still married to my first husband to go back to Uni. We’d searched like maniacs for an apartment for me and found one – on the very top of a hotel right in the heart of the city. The Mantra Hotel on Hay Street leases it’s apartment-style hotel rooms as homes for rent. These special apartments take up the top 2 floors of the Mantra Hotel. My tiny 1-bedroom apartment was so cute and had a huge floor-to-ceiling window in the kitchen/living room (tiny) that gave a STUNNING view of the city skyline and all the beautiful, twinkly lights across the city every night. It was the first time I lived alone and oh my gosh, I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT.

Every night, without fail, I would sit cross-legged on the tiny balcony (I don’t think there was even room for a chair out there – standing room only!) and look at the lights with a big smile on my face. I really love this city.

Anyway.

I’d spent months studying hard at Uni and had saved up my money – (I also asked for money on my birthday in April from everyone I loved and all of that I put towards my awesome plan) and bought a ticket to the UK for THREE DAYS so I could fly across the world to wish Jon happy birthday as a surprise – then fly BACK in time for Uni lectures and tutorials.

When you’re young, you can pretty much do anything 🙂

So. I flew to Liverpool, surprised Jon on his birthday, hugged ALL the youth so tight, spent time with as many people there as I loved and flew home to Australia – absolutely exhausted but pleased my extravagant plan had worked. On the flight home though, I thought of how thin and gaunt my then-husband looked. Jon struggles at times with OCD and that can affect the meals he eats – or in this case – DOESN’T EAT and make him dangerously thin. I was so worried about his appearance that I decided to DROP OUT OF UNI (again. ARGH!!!) and MOVE BACK TO LIVERPOOL permanently and look after Jon.

That’s what wives do, isn’t it? We look after our husbands with all our hearts and often put OUR dreams aside for theirs.

For a SECOND TIME in my life, I said goodbye to my home country, my friends and my family. Jon came first in my life. Always.

So I needed to pack everything up.

BOXES!!! I need a load of boxes.

But where to get them?

I remembered my first job ever working at McDonalds, so I went to the Hungry Jacks (UK peeps call it “Burger King”) around the corner and asked a young staff member if they had any boxes I could take. He said they had some, and lead me out to the back storage area – it was out in the open air, not covered at all and there were 3 huge skip bins.

“We keep our boxes in the blue one” he pointed it out “Help yourself” and left me to it.

Hmm. I wasn’t going to collect grubby boxes nicely dressed, to I went home and changed, putting on a torn t-shirt and my dirtiest, daggiest pair of tracksuit pants. I put my hair up in a cap to keep it out of my face (and hopefully as germ free as possible) and put my sneakers on.

Now I was ready!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach the boxes from the outside of the skip bin, I’m too small at only 5’2, so I had to CLIMB INSIDE in order to get to the boxes. It was so dirty in there and smelled awful. I told myself to just get through it and pick out the cleanest, biggest, strongest boxes. As I found boxes I liked that would do the job, I threw them out of the side of the skip bin and made a nice little pile as I worked. I was there a while, sorting through broken boxes, torn cardboard and basic litter to get a good find. To keep myself calm (I don’t like being alone in weird places like skip bins!) I was talking to myself; “Oh! This one’s a good one, yes!” “No…ugh! What is THAT? Ew!”

Suddenly, I hear a voice gently call out “Hello? Is there someone in there?”

And I stood so I could see out of the skip bin.

There was an old man standing outside, peering in with concern on his face. He had kind eyes. He was wearing old, torn clothing and looked as if he was homeless, poor thing.

“Hiya!” I flashed him my friendliest smile.

“What are you up to, young lady?” He asked and smiled back. He had a nice smile, it bunched up his cheeks. I got the feeling he probably smiled a lot.

“Ugh…” I sighed, I was getting tired and had been in the skip bin for quite some time before this guy showed up “Just getting boxes”

“Ah” he nodded “to make signs up? so people know to give you money?”

Bless. This poor guy thought I was homeless, too.

“No, no” I smiled again so he wouldn’t think I was being bossy “I just wanted to collect some packing boxes so I could -“

“…make yourself a nice warm home” he finished. Bless. This guy was intent on thinking I was a homeless girl. I guess my dirty clothing didn’t help with that.

“Not quite” I smiled again and walked over so we were face-to-face now – me still in the bin and him standing outside; leaning on the edge of it with his arms folded.

“I’m just getting some packing boxes together so I can move back to the UK” I explained. I held up a ‘nice’ box and wiggled it “This one’s a good one so I’ll take it home”

The old man didn’t seem to believe me.

“It’s okay to admit you need help” he persisted.

“I’m honestly okay” I so wanted to put him at ease. There was something kind and likeable about this fellow, and I didn’t want him to worry or have the wrong idea about me.

“I’m not homeless” I continued “I actually live just around the corner – see that hotel over there? The one with all the bright lights and the big “M” on the side of it?” and I pointed behind us to the Mantra Hotel.

He nodded.

“I live on the top floor” I pointed towards my little balcony and smiled, thinking of sitting out that very evening and watching for a falling star.

“You live in the Penthouse?!?” he exclaimed, shaking his head and laughing.

“No way! I couldn’t afford that!” I laughed along with him

“I knew it” He nodded to himself.

“I’m honestly okay, though – really I am” I tried again. “I live in the hotel in apartments they have on the top floor”

The guy wasn’t having it and shook his head “You have a lot of spirit, I’ll give you that!” he smiled.

Then, I watched in surprise as he leaned down, took a dollar out of his pocket and rested it gently on the lip of the skip bin.

“It’s not much, but I think you could get something to eat with it tonight”

Oh my heart. He had so little to give, but gave it freely anyway.

I was so touched I couldn’t speak.

The man turned to walk away, wishing me well “Stay safe tonight, young lady – have a good sleep”.

“But Sir!” I called out “I don’t need this!” I held out the dollar to him but he was quickly disappearing into the evening mist.

I still have that dollar coin even now.

I try my best to help the homeless and only last week brought a sandwich for a girl sitting outside a cafĂ© on Murray Street with a ‘please help if you can‘ sign in front of her.

“I can’t give you money but I’d gladly buy you something from the cafĂ©?” I suggested, pointing to the Breve CafĂ© behind us both.

“I’d like a sandwich!” the girl leapt up and headed towards the counter, eager for some food.

I let her order (two sandwiches and a plate of chips), paid, and left her to it. She called out “Thank you, Miss!” as I walked away down Murray street mall.

Every time I am able to help someone homeless, I feel so blessed and I think of that guy by the skip bin…and the special ‘hobo dollar‘ (my friend Adam named it that when I told him excitedly all about it) he gave me.

We are blessed to be able to give, aren’t we?

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