I hang out with the salvos a little, mainly just once a week when I go out with the outreach team. We give people pies and coffee and conversation.
I’ve been doing this for about two years, and mostly I love it. I have met a lot of great people and I think it’s important, what we do. Even if it is pies and coffee in answer to the problems of homelessness, loneliness, desperation and hurt.
I went out last night, and the team was great and we had a good night, except then there were these boys and they were loud and angry and full up of bravado and fear that spilled out of them and onto anyone that walked past and the street and the world. And I could see people forming these opinions, the kind of opinions that stay in minds and pollute them and help women and men decide to cross the street when they see kids in large groups and believe the news when it tell us we’re all going to die from knife wounds.
Just young boys, who joked with us and who I’m guessing don’t have mums at home that are looking at clock faces and wondering when they’ll know their children are safe.
Afterwards we met a man who was playing the guitar on the street. And he was so incapacitated that when he needed to go to the bathroom he crab walked around a corner, rolled over and just went. He got urine all over himself and across half of the street.
And as I walked home from the tram later I cried because what has happened there? Because I want that man to be in a house and holding his grandkids, and because I want those boys to be laughing with their friends and heading home to their family and being unafraid and joyful at the prospect of their future.
I wish I had a neat little way to sum this up, but this is what I’ve got: I saw things that are broken, and I will sleep comfortably tonight.
Even typing this I feel like a jerk, sitting on my lounge surrounded by my walls and my certainty and my comfort, having had my peace of mind disrupted for a half hour. Mostly I don’t let things stick, you see. There’s no point. I do what I can (I guess) and I get on with it.
But every now and then, something gets through. I laugh with a man who, in another life, I would have had a drink with at the pub, and he’s sleeping in a doorway. I see a woman, pulled behind a couple of bins that the man who wants to have sex with her has grudgingly moved so that they’ll have some privacy and as I leave I hear her ask him his name. I see those boys, who have nothing better to do and no one who has told them its ok, that they don’t need to pretend. I walk away from a man who has just pissed on himself and who only wants another beer.
Generally I believe that life is like, smeared with shit, and sprinkled with bits of beauty. And it’s our job to find the beauty in the shit. It is difficult. And it hurts.
But I guess we keep going, because what else can we do?
Thanks for listening. Here’s to beauty.