“Have you seen the old man in the closed down market
Picking up the papers, with his worn out shoes.
In his eyes you see no pride and hanging loosely at his side
Yesterdays paper, telling yesterdays news…
So how can you tell me you’re lonely?
And say for you that the sun don’t shine
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London,
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind ”
“Open Every Door” conjures up many different pictures, (other than myself repeating those words when various colleagues in the Summer have insisted on working in temperatures in excess of 100 degrees and think that air con is a mere wall decoration !)… “Open every door” can mean …”To take a Chance”, to “Never miss an Opportunity”, to” Live Life to the Full,” etc etc, or in this particular case,…something entirely different….
“Opening a door” to someone else’s world…
A world where ,sadly, people tend not to go…..Don’t want to get involved. Too busy.Always rushing. Don’t like what they see. Too frightened to because of the unknown consequences, or there is an automatic bell that chimes in their heads ” Not my business…. I have enough troubles of my own….let sleeping dogs lie” …..isn’t that what they say ?!
One morning in late Summer I was on my way to work, when outside the tube station I saw what I thought was a bundle of blankets on a chair. Upon approaching the pile of soiled rags ,I saw that under the bundle there was a tramp. He was sleeping, his head, partially under the blanket, bowed in the morning sunshine. His hands were gnarled and black, ground deeply with dirt in every crease. He had long wiry dark hair which seemed to resemble dreadlocks under a colourful” towel” which was wrapped around his head and over one shoulder, his legs were covered by a sleeping bag and a dirty blanket. A face, I could just see, was brown and his eyebrows and beard dark, he had the look of someone who would be quite at home on a donkey in biblical times ,roaming the streets of Damascus,….I remember thinking at the time, that it was strange I should have had that thought, as when I got closer I saw that on his lap, lying open at the book of Psalms was the Bible, quite a large bible, with dirty thin creased thumbed pages, as though it had been well read, many times, in all weathers.
There was something about this character in the blanket…….Something,…. that in just that one glance, somehow drew me into his world…..not that I saw him as my next dinner date or anything like that!… but just “something.” My intuition, which has always been so very strong, and guides me in so many things, (which I really believe is a voice speaking,) made me stop…..I watched him sleeping for a few moments, and only then realized he was in a wheel chair…I thought to myself, here is a man, maybe mid 60’s,dirty,unkempt,with absolutely nothing, except the equally dirty plastic bag hanging off the worn handle of the chair…. his valued possession….and yet….here he was, with a Bible! He had so little….. yet still had Faith,… and Hope….. All this was going through my head as I was just watching him….He was also a bit like Fagin from Oliver Twist, and I had visions of him dancing around, nimble footed, to the backing of a big orchestra singing “Gotta pick a pocket or two” ….I was just at the point of visualizing myself in a heart rendering version of ” As long as He Needs me,” as Nancy, with Oliver running up to us, followed by Bill Sykes, and of course his dog, when I suddenly realized I needed to get to work!! … I dropped 2 pound coins on his bible, carefully so as not to wake him … and left, taking a photograph before I went.
I found myself thinking of this character throughout the morning, so was pleased he was still there when I returned that evening. He was awake,so I went up and said Hello. He told me his name was Simon Peter, (which in itself I found really strange having decided he belonged on a donkey in Damascus, in my head that very morning!!)….Also those of you who remember,….I was convinced I met Jesus on Marylebone High St. 9 years ago !!! ..(.but that’s another story for another time !! a story I couldn’t even tell without tears, for about 2 years !!!…and now….here was his friend !!!the disciple !!… wow!isn’t life amazingly astounding !! !!!I told him about my encounter on Marylebone High St,he didn’t laugh or make fun of me, just said ” Millie ….who knows….strange things can occur”
I really honestly don’t go out and court these incidents that continually pepper my life…. they just happen!!!…always have done….so so many many amazing things, (I once gathered holly in a woodland with Ava Gardener 2 weeks before Christmas !!…no!!….honestly!!)and every encounter and event is special….Anyway…we wont meander, or go off on any tangents….back to Simon Peter…!
I asked if he got the £2 I left and he thanked me profusely, he was quite well spoken and had twinkling eyes. I asked how long he’d been on the streets, he said 28 years, but he had no complaints, only when it rained, and was difficult to dry off. He told me he’d read the Bible twice, but that day someone had stolen it from his lap whilst he was asleep!!! How or why does anyone steal a bible from someone like that!!? WHY? but I learnt much later , on the streets that’s the main problem, you never get to keep anything ,other homeless people take things, particularly from someone like Simon, as his bag hangs behind him, perched on the handles of the chair while he sleeps.
The next day I passed him in the same spot and came to learn that he always stayed there as it was outside a tube station and was on CCTV so he felt safer there than if residing under the Arches or in a park as if he was set upon, all would be caught on camera, also there was a canopy providing shelter.
He was most upset about the loss of his Bible, so as I was near, I went to the bookshop of the church next door to work. There was a huge selection, but I found a large one where the print was larger than the others, it was all pristine with thin pages edged in gold, and in the front was a “Presented To”label….I wrote his name and the date and ” Love Millie”and took it over to him, all wrapped up, thinking he may not get many presents….
He was so thrilled, so so pleased and must have said Thank You at least six times….I was so excited to give it to him!!,…he told me that I was his Angel that had been sent to him!!…..I said ” Simon, its karma, you must have done something good for this to happen to you, I am just the messenger…its meant to be ”
Someone in the office said to me later in the day ” He’s probably a con man…why are you doing that for someone you don’t even know? why waste £15?” My answer was,……..” Why not?”
You see, in this life I really believe, you decide your own destiny….call it cause and effect, or Karma, or whatever you like, but every single action, has a counter effect, a re action. Every thought is nothing but an energy,think negatively, and it manifests, and that’s what returns, bigger and grander!…..think positively, and do acts of kindness, done with love,……… and you will be astounded at the sheer joy and abundance that returns.
It often fascinates me how people go about their daily lives, just doing “their thing ” never talking to others, or doing a kind deed, never giving a smile to someone who may be feeling sad….I am so so not Mother Theresa,and don’t profess to be special, but every day,without telling anyone I make sure I do something, nothing big…sometimes as small as telling someone they look lovely, or pretty, sometimes carrying an old lady’s bag up the steps when she’s struggling, yesterday a little boy was in the shop and was 20 p short so couldn’t get the chocolate he wanted….I gave it to him…..silly little things,but oh my goodness…..the amazing wonderful things that continue to happen in my life find me saying every day ” I cant believe that !!!”….but I always remember to say thank you, to thank the Universe and show grattitude…..that’s essential. I’ve noticed recently, people can appear to be “reasonably content”….look behind their eyes……that sparkle just isn’t there….there is no “joy”.
I so hope that this doesn’t sound in any way sanctimonious, I just so want people to experience the same joy that I do…and its so easy!!!….it costs nothing….just a tiny tiny effort to reap such incredible abundance.
That was the beginning of my life chatting to Simon, and being continually “happily delayed” by his conversations. He does The Times crossword every day, if he manages to find a copy, and never forgets to ask me ” how was dinner? how was Lunch?, how was the film?” depending on what I’ve told him I’ve been up to….
I was sitting in a restaurant telling a friend of mine who was visiting from Vietnam all about Simon, she had tears in her eyes,as she listened…. she gave me £ 10 to give to him….this then became “A story” and another friend gave me £10,then another, and another.. soon I had £50 to give him!! He was delirious with happiness,and made me promise to thank each and every one of the” kind contributors,”and later the same day he said he’d bought 2 of his friends from ” under the Arches” some food and a drink” with some of the money!…..that brought me to tears ,and I hurriedly put on sun glasses,…here was a man, a tramp, who had so very very little, but yet was prepared to share what he had with the friends who were his support system, who had less than him…….he really ” Got it! ” what he gives….comes back!! and from that day Simon became my friend.
One morning he happened to be telling me that he used to be a chorister in Portsmouth cathedral as a boy, and he knew music, he said he plays well on a penny whistle….but didn’t have one…I said I would get him one, not that I had a clue where to look for ” a penny whistle “…I tried various shops, ” Oh Millie” he said as I left him that day ” Make sure it’s in key of D by the way, will you !!” if he wasn’t so serious it would have been funny!!.
Eventually a friend told me to try Amazon, and sure enough, a whistle in key of D…£12….Again I was so excited to give it to him, and if he was excited over the Bible….you should have seen his twinkling eyes and toothless smile over the whistle! !!Sheer joy !He immediately started to play….Now a whistle isn’t exactly the sound of a Symphony Orchestra !!…but Simon playing was the sound of an Angel!!!…..I videoed him, and was rewarded with the hymn “Make me a Channel of your Peace”the tone he managed to achieve from that whistle was astounding!! and soon 2 or 3 people had gathered to listen, most of those watching in tears, including myself!!… ” I said “Simon, if you make me cry 1 more time this friendship is coming to an abrupt end !!”he smiled, and said that sunglasses suited me! ……….and went on to play another hymn.
By the time I passed again that evening he had made £30 in coins which were lying in a worn glove on the pavement.
Alas, the music was short lived, as once again, his bag was taken while he slept, the whistle being in the bag .But this wasn’t just a stolen bag, this was his reason to wake up every day, his life, his music, his livelihood. I just had to get him another whistle. How could I not?
I found myself looking forward to ” the story of the day “he always had something to tell me as I passed each evening, as in the mornings he was often asleep under his blanket. ” wake up” was about 10 am…. One of the funniest days ,was when I was picking up dog ends of cigarettes from the pavement for him!!! he spotted them a mile away!! (I got a few odd looks from hurrying commuters but I didn’t care)…and we became known at the tube station near where he resides as” Lady and The Tramp”
People locally are quite good, he does get given food,and the odd commuter will buy him a coffee,but as the weather gets colder,and the winds more biting, life on the streets isn’t easy.
One of the worst evenings was when Simon was in real pain, crying in fact, as he had a bladder infection,he just wouldn’t let me call the Paramedics…no matter how I tried to convince him that he needed antibiotics.It was horrid, and I so hated seeing my friend upset. Eventually, as he just wouldn’t listen…(he can be extremely stubborn when he doesn’t want to do anything….like every man !! )I said I wasn’t leaving till we came to some kind of compromise….I tracked down a pharmacist in a local chemist and we…I…eventually got some medicine, which, only when I got back to him did we read the instructions on the back of the packet ” For women and children…not suitable for men!! ” Simon was a little concerned, but I said if it takes away the pain , lets deal with those consequences later on….swallow it!!!
I stayed with him for a while…it was freezing, but someone had left a warm duvet,…but he was soaking wet, and didn’t exactly smell of Bulgari or Cartier’s latest fragrance!!!…but there was little I could do in that department!!
I went home that evening,and as I was sitting in the warmth watching the candle flame dance on the table ,my thoughts were miles away, …..on a street corner in South London, infact,where an old man,clad only in rags was still sitting, probably in the same spot I had left him in earlier,in sub zero temperatures. It really upset me.
I sometimes wish that I could be like other people, and just get on with life, “that’s the life he has chosen and its up to him”….but I can’t……I’ve always felt other peoples pain, always, since being a child actually. I remember going to stay with my grandparents in the holidays, with my sister, which was great fun, we were allowed to stay up late and have chewing gum !! something which was never allowed at home! I loved staying with them, and yet….every day, I had to call home…only 12 miles away, but I used to be so concerned that my mother would be lonely !!…strange really at that age, I must have been 7 or 8 …….she probably couldn’t wait to get rid of us!! and was never lonely…but I hated her being “left.”
Simon Peter has managed quite nicely over the last 28 yrs without my input ,and I’m sure he would continue to manage,but I still didn’t like the thought of him out in the freezing cold somehow,day after day.
Next morning he was awake,and I was telling him he’d kept me awake thinking of him, in the cold….he was telling me that since he’d had his phone stolen the nights seemed so much longer as he used to listen to Radio 4,or BBC London…(I didn’t even know he had a phone!) he used to plug it in to the traders stalls points on the station slopes to charge it…now he’d lost it! …again probably stolen…Life on the streets was no walk in the park! that’s for sure.I went into the Shopping Centre and decided we would start with the headphones,which I found easily, but no one listens to small radios now,and it was impossible to find one in the vicinity of “Simon’s patch”that had a portal for headphones…some dodgy character on one of the stalls in the underpass promised to get me one from the warehouse, but that never materialized. Eventually I found one in an electricians shop, local to me.It was lovely and would be ideal for him….I was so excited yet again to give it to him,but as Simon added ” not as excited as me !!!” he just loved it so much, it was worth every second of trailing round looking, just to see him so so happy.
In the weeks that followed that event, I was given a bag of amazing face creams, 10 jars, including an eye cream which retails at £65,by a friend who is doing the PR for a new dermatologist in Harley St. A book from lovely Richard who came into my local coffee shop and said he just saw it, and thought I would like it! A jar of night cream from my Make up Artist friend in Selfridges …see what I mean……it bounces back !!! amazing!….but not.
Really lovely things happen,people come up to me and say things…but its all the result of Cause and Effect….absolutely nothing else,What you put into Life, you get out of Life….simple as that…..always.
Be open and honest with people, the same bounces back, threefold, every time.
Simon has taught me many things… he’s taught me how to read the evening sky,and also that just because one doesn’t have material wealth, and are dirty with unkempt hair,and filthy hands,it doesn’t mean that knowledge and humility,kindness and compassion aren’t there in abundance.
He doesn’t drink neither does he do drugs,he’s always polite and appreciates all I do,and nothing is ever taken for granted. I miss him when he is not in his usual spot each morning,and its amazing how many friends now ask me ” How’s Simon?”
People come in and out of our lives for a reason,and often that reason is unclear at the time,maybe to teach us lessons, or maybe to teach them lessons,….after all, life is a mere learning curve, no matter how we look at it.
What is it they say ? “People come in to our lives for a Reason, a Season or a Lifetime”
Friendships, and Relationships end,the reason they do is irrelevant…..There is no “bad” person,just that one has learnt the lesson that they were meant to learn from the other,on this part of life’s journey, so its time to part.
The Universe moves us on, on with our soul journey, to be where we are meant to be right now…..so one must look back with thanks…….thanks that “it was”……not bitterness that “it no longer is”
Simon may not always be around in my daily life, he may travel around the country a bit,but I know that I will never forget him…..I’ve seen raw joy on a face that doesn’t see it too often, I’ve seen him appreciate the smallest thing….but most of all he’s taught me that “behind any door” you just don’t know what you may find……so take a look!
Open Every Door…..Take that chance!, and you too may be given moments that are fleeting…..but will remain remembered for a lifetime.
Love, Happiness and Joy,