On the First Day of Springtime

It was a very cold day. I was walking a dog along Market Harborough’s Northampton Road fully insulated against the chill wind. The forecast for that night wasn’t good as more snow and icy conditions were set to envelop our region within the next eight hours. ‘Welcome’, I thought, ‘to springtime’, as even the hardy Border Collie squinted in the face of the cold blustery weather. As we approached a busy road junction I recognised a man that was familiar to me, only by way of meeting him from time to time: a ‘known’ stranger if you like. He looked somewhat forlorn; head bowed, inappropriately and shabbily dressed, and seemingly in a world of his own. I’ll call him Stan. “Everything alright Stan” I said. “Oh, hi Rich”. It was as if I’d woken him from a dream. He tried desperately to look perky but I could see that something wasn’t quite right. sad-man-stigma-110603He told me that he just couldn’t find a job, his girlfriend had left him and that he was in the process of being evicted from his home. His benefits would apparently be withdrawn if he didn’t accept a hostel place in Leicester. “I live here” he said “this is my home town: I don’t want to live in a hostel in a strange city”. We chatted for a while before parting in different directions. It was not my decision to distinguish any exaggeration or fiction from reality. I could only form my thoughts from what Stan had told me. I just knew that I wouldn’t sleep right that night unless something was said to someone that might help a fellow human being in apparent great need. I made calls to Harborough Council who were most understanding and told me that he would get immediate help. The police were brilliant, telling me that they would ensure that they would surreptitiously check his well being. That night it snowed quite heavily. I slept as soundly as I could.

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