We all have a story…. Like a boulder on the shore, shaped by endlessly crashing waves, so too are we, wrought by the constant onslaught of life.
We had a friend called Nic. A very special man. A man with an uncomplicated, but infectious sense of humour, quietly spoken and an unending empathy for his fellow man. Nic came into our lives with nothing more to offer than himself, his corny jokes and his friendship. In the time he was with us, he never drank alcohol. His drink of choice was Coke, always a bottle, a little bottle, with a slice of lemon wedged in the top. There were never any details of Nic’s life before he came into ours, but I always sensed the demons of his past were still very much part of his present.
Then one Sunday afternoon, after we had finished our game, he and I were left alone. On this day, he ordered a Coke for himself, don’t forget the lemon, and a beer for me. The drinks arrived and we sat side by side for a long time, not talking, the mood had unexpectedly become somber. Suddenly, very quietly, Nic began to tell me his story…….
He spoke of a happy, normal life, work and a family. He spoke of competitive sport and the disappointment when deserved recognition does not come. He spoke of a life unravelling through hurt caused and hurt endured, of a broken family and severed relationships, of addiction and destructive choices. He spoke of sleeping in doorways and ending the pain once and for all, then, with tears flowing freely, he spoke of a second chance.
Sadly our friend Nic was taken during the final stretch of his walk to redemption but I consider myself privileged to have been entrusted with the account of how he came to us.
The reason for my convoluted introduction is that Tuesday is garbage day in our neighborhood, and as happens in many places the world over, we put out our neatly tied up black bags in the hope that the council will collect and dispose of them on our behalf. In our part of the world, for reasons best left to another forum, abject poverty is all around us and many desperate souls are forced to scratch through piles of rubbish to find something to sell or use, or worse, something to eat. Many of these people, after riffling through the bags will tie them up neatly again, leaving them as before, others not and the mess is something to behold.
For the last three weeks, when I have taken my bags out early in the morning, there has been a young man sitting there with no obvious belongings but a single blanket impeccably folded on the pavement next to him. On each occasion, as I have walked out my yard, he has approached me and with a simple “good morning Sir” has taken my bags from me and carried them to the other side of the road.
This last weekend, I had spent some time cleaning out some clutter from the house, an old toaster, magazines and various other bits and pieces, so this week we had a few more bags than normal. On Tuesday, I walked out my gate, and there was the same young man again with his perfectly square blanket folded at his side.
Once again he approached me “Good morning Sir, did you see how nicely I cleaned up last week?”
“Thank you very much, I did” I replied.
“Oh, does that toaster work?” he asked excitedly.
I replied that it did, “thank you Sir, have a great day” he said as he turned to start searching my unwanted rubbish for something that, in his world, would be hugely valuable.
This young man has been on my mind all week, he clearly has some level of education and upbringing and I can’t help but wonder what life has thrown at him and what choices has he made to be where he is.
I have, however, decided to try and get him to tell me his story. It cannot be that this obviously intelligent man is destined to live on the very fringes of society because he didn’t get a second chance…… if he wanted it.
Our friend Nic would have insisted.
To be continued……………..