On my way to work, an elderly homeless lady caught my eye. I saw her in the same place continuously for four days. In retrospect, if I have to zero in on why she caught my eye, I guess it’d be the fact that she looks exactly like my own grandmother. On the fifth day too I’d have just driven past mentally cursing the world for forcing an elderly person out into the streets, but I heard this ad on the radio about the ‘world’s largest jewellery store’ coming to town. I stopped the car, to clear the turmoil I was feeling.
Here we are, making way to open the world’s largest whatever and yet our hearts have shrunk so much that we don’t have space to accommodate our elders! Our focus is always on increasing the size of our bank balance while we don’t bat an eyelid before driving out our elderly people! They are of no value to us now since they do not contribute monetarily and hence burdensome! There is no value for a life lived or contributions once made that has made us who we are! We prefer to ignore the uncomfortable truth that they are the ones who have fed us and possibly made us what we are!
The streets are their homes now; they live on the benevolence of the Church or some kindred spirit, their bent backs are testimonies of the burdens they have carried to ensure our future. While they still trudge on with stark difficulty, we have turned our backs on them. The broken glasses they wear speak volumes of their broken spirit and how this world has let them down in their twilight years. The gnarled, wrinkled hands, the lines on their faces and the grey hair are those from standing the cruel test of time. Their cataract lined eyes search for that one heart that would take pity on them and reach out.
I got down from my car and walked up to this lady and talked to her. Imagine my shock when she replies in perfect English! Lesson No. 1 – Being educated needn’t necessarily ensure a sound, stable life! Lesson No.2 – Being homeless needn’t necessarily be the prerogative of the poor, downtrodden or the illiterate!
I offered to find a government run old age home for her, but she turned down my offer saying, such places were breeding grounds for a rotting death! And that she’d prefer to die out in the open, basking in the sunshine, with dignity and being with her other homeless friends. I offered some money, she refused saying, while she is grateful for my kindness, she’d prefer it if I could find her a job! Lesson No. 3 – Even at that age (she is 65) she wanted to support herself! Lesson No. 4 – Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day! Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. In this case, this woman knew how to fish but couldn’t find a place to do so!
I came back determined to find this woman a job and with the feeling I had it in my power to find her a living. When I discussed this with some of my friends they said, there are million such people out there, and what was I going to do about them? I said I don’t know about the millions but I am making a difference to this one! And it’s a start!
If only the millions who spend millions on such huge jewellery stores spare a thought for such people, they’d truly become one in a million! Here’s urging each of you to reach out to one homeless soul and make a difference to them in your lifetime!