There is a man who lives under the railway bridge leading to the busy high street.
All of his possessions are pushed against a wall and his mattress takes up about a third of the walkway. Curiously I was thinking yesterday that if it were me, I would put the mattress against the wall and my things as a kind of barrier. But maybe they would blow away or be kicked by passers by.
The man under the railway bridge has no safety barrier around him when he sleeps. You can look in on him, down from a bus window or directly there. He has no defences against other people’s eyes, no separation or privacy from the outside world.
The fumes from the buses must be poisoning him and the harsh outdoor weather slowing draining him and the light pollution denying him true rest and recovery.
What must have befallen such a person to lead them to this situation? I cannot know what he thinks or feels, whether he is fleeing something, whether he would rather be out there than in some place worse. But I cannot imagine it being a good situation.
If he is a musician he cannot keep his guitar in good order, if he is a baker he cannot work his hands on the dough, if he is a athlete he can’t keep his fitness high, if he is a teacher he cannot order his mind or keep to a schedule.
Whatever this man may have been, he is in a place where that potential is not realized. Somewhere along the way, enough people have failed him and the system has failed to catch him – or deliberately let him fall.
I hope the man who lives under the railway bridge is picked up by the two great, warm hands of society and given walls to protect himself, refind himself, counsellors to talk him through whatever needs to be spoken or just to be there in moments of desperation and friends enough to give him something to live for.
I hate this callous system, its economics and its deranged values. Those at the very ‘top’ must have gouged-out hearts and atrophied souls to allow for, or even cause, so much suffering both to their fellow man and to nature itself. It must be a heavy burden on them, all that power, all that real suffering they cause.
That is the real tragedy here – all that suffering is for nothing. It does not teach our souls or take us on some spiritual journey. There are people who are forced to suffer, it is immoral and it needs to stop.