He looked up searching to connect with the eyes of each passenger as he dragged himself through the dirt of the carriage walkway. His hands sought a safe route between the feet and baggage. Each passenger moved their feet, and their gaze to avoid him, acknowledging his physical presence, whilst at the same time not wanting to look him in the eye or offer help.
I absorbed the shock of this unexpected encounter and felt my heart break. This was his existence, shuffling along the floor, between the feet, begging for money. Tears welled in my eyes, unable to muster courage to break away from the status quo, I let him pass by, denying his plea.
Later I was once again rushing through the labyrinth of the underground Metro. Hot and thirsty, with aching feet, my stomach was telling me it was time to search for a cafe. Floating through the multicultural voices, I picked up a distant sound. Musical notes drifted through the air. A man was playing a saxophone, the sound was beautiful and completely filled the walkway. I forgot about being hot, I forgot about my aches and hunger, my spirits lifted. As I passed by I threw a couple of Euros into the tin beside the musician, looking into his eyes I silently thanked him for lifting my mood.
Boarding the train the image of the man dragging himself along the floor came to mind – once more my heart broke - why had it been so easy to give money to the musician and so hard to even look into the face of the man on the floor of the carriage.
It is uncomfortable to re-tell this experience. I am charitable and compassionate and I regret my decision to be influenced by those around me, I regret letting the moment pass.
A Way Out could be your opportunity, your moment, to help vulnerable women and young people in Stockton. Could you support us by volunteering your time, donating food for our food parcels, or supporting us financially? Don't let this moment pass you by.