The following story is based on true events
Sometimes people come into our lives just when we need them the most. We don’t always know why and we don’t really need too. It is there warmth that shows us that there is some good out in the world and it is worth going on.
In the big Sussex town of Crawley Luka sat in the sheltered doorway of an abandoned office building. His legs wrapped up by his arms with his face in his knees he lamented over his poor choices. Tears stained his dirty cheeks and he felt that there were no more to cry.
He was a man in a foreign land without any comfort, lost due to trust poorly given leaving him now to live with his mistake.
Luka was desperate.
Earlier that day he had been arrested for stealing a bottle of wine from a corner shop. It wasn’t that he needed the bottle he just wanted to get the attention of someone who could help him. The police took him to the station, gave him a warning and then sent him on his way.
Where was the help?
It was evening now and despite it being summer it had been raining for most of the day with the promise of a cold night. All he had for warmth was a small packet of tobacco and a large bottle of cider. It was not going to give him any solace.
As the sun was setting a passerby noticed him sitting there. The stranger was not the first to walk pass him that day but this one was the first to notice. He came over and asked Luka if he was ok.
“No, but don’t worry about me. Keep going.” Luka’s melancholy tone was nothing more than a whimper under his breath and so the stranger turned and walked on.
It was no more that ten paces down the road when the stranger stopped and turned back to sit beside Luka.
“What is the matter?” His voice was soft and kind. With real compassion that Luka had forgotten the sound of and so ignored.
“Don’t worry about me. There is nothing that you can do. Just go.” Again harsh tones but it was not enough to sway the visitor.
“I’m not going anywhere?” he said. “I can clearly see you are upset and I will not leave you.”
Luka refused to lift his head from his knees. Desperate for this man to leave he did all in his power to convince him to go. It didn’t work.
The stranger introduced himself as Omar, offering out his hand in a friendly handshake Luka felt obliged to respond.
“Now tell me what is going on?” Omar had sat down on the concert floor beside Luka showing that he was not going anywhere.
Forced into the conversation Luka told him what had happed that day.
“I can’t trust people. They have done this too me,” he complained with emotions swelling up inside of him again.
Through careful persuasion Omar had Luka tell him his story.
Luka was in his mid thirties and was once a driver for a large courier company. Due to recent cut backs in the firm he was left without work. The people he had trusted as his friends had betrayed him; robbed him of his goods and kicked him out on the streets. Worlds away from his home in Poland he was a wandering soul on the streets. Three months he lived hand to mouth working where he could, doing whatever he could. A gypsy traveller offered him labour work with a salary that was never going to be enough to set him free of his poverty. In the end through months of abuse, torture and suffering he left. It may have seemed foolish at the time but he needed to be free from the prison that he had found himself in. Now he was where is sat, alone cold and lost.
Omar inquired about the service the police had offered him only to learn that they were less than helpful. They had given him a map to a homeless shelter and told him to go there. That was all the information they were willing to give. They were not even prepared to help with the crimes he had faced up until that point. Luka felt that justice was not for everyone.
“We should go to the shelter then” Omar said. “I have been there before as a volunteer and I know that they are really very helpful. Come I will take you there myself.” Again he offered out his hand but this time it was to help him up. Luka refused to comply, instead rolling up a cigarette.
“No I don’t want to go. Leave me here I am done.” It was clear that Luka had given up on his life, and from the words and actions he was saying, if left alone he would have possibly committed suicide.
Omar was not going to let him stay there in that condition and so did all that he could to convince him. He asked his new friend about his friends and family. What he learnt was that back in Poland Luka had a disabled daughter. He had left his home land to find work so that he could send money to her. When he spoke of her his face lit up.
“She loves me very much and she is so smart,” he told Omar.
“Then we must get ourselves back on our feet so that we can help her and see her again.
Reminding Luka of his daughter gave him a little hope. He finished his cigarette and took a swig of his cider before letting out a long sigh. “Ok then lets go.”
Omar helped him to his feet and they walked together to the homeless shelter. Along the way Luka revealed to Omar more about his life, telling him about the other countries that he had visited in search of work and that all he wanted to do was earn his own money to send home. There was honesty in his words that left no doubt in Omar’s mind that Luka meant everything that he said.
When they reached the gates of the homeless shelter some twenty minutes later they rang the bell hoping to gain entrance. Adam, the night time caretaker came of the bars to greet them.
“Sir,” Omar began to speak. “My friend here is on the streets and needs a place to sleep and get help. Can you offer this to him?”
Adam carefully judged the two men before responding. “I’m sorry but we are full for the night. If you come back tomorrow we can get you food, clothes and a place to wash. As it is the weekend we can’t help with benefits until Monday but we will if we can then.”
Despite this set back Luka did not seem disheartened. “I don’t want benefits I just want to work,” he told the caretaker.
“We can help with all of that on Monday. I can get you some sleeping stuff for the night and you can come back. You just need to find a place to sleep where it is dry.”
Luka accepted the offer and took the bin bag of bedding. He tried to convince Omar to leave him and that he would find himself his own sleeping place but his words made no impact. Omar carried the bag telling him that he would only leave him when he was sure that he was safe. There was hope in Luka’s eyes; things were changing.
A short distance away from the shelter a church stood on the corner of a busy road. Others had already taken to the enclosed areas and were making themselves ready for the night. Omar helped Luka find a spot where they laid down his blankets.
Sitting down beside him in the entrance of the church he watched as the rain fell and pooled in the car park. It was getting colder now that the sun had set. Omar visited the other homeless people near by asking them if they would look after his friend and explaining that he was knew to the street. Their first response was hostile but it was to be expected. Omar offered to get everyone food and disappeared for a while. He later came back with four boxes of pizza which he distributed amongst them all.
“I can’t believe you did that,” Stan, the leader of the other group said. “Most people say they will and never do.”
Omar explained that he was a man of his word and once he had given them the food he sat back down beside his friend.
As Luka tucked into his warm meal he asked his new friend why he had helped him.
“It doesn’t matter why I have helped you. Just know that I have and that they’re good people in the world that are willing to help.”
It wasn’t the answer that he was looking for and so he pressed him on again.
In the end Omar shared his story. “I was born on the streets and found myself on them several times after that as well. I know how important it is when someone helps you.” Omar’s mother had run away from home while she was expecting him and once she had given birth had nowhere to go. If it had not been for the kindness of an old school teacher his story could have ended very differently. Further to that a conflicted childhood saw him and his family homeless again and in his teens he ran away himself.
Stan had come over to listen to this story along with some of the other people in his group.
“I know that things can get better. You just need to believe. Faith in God tells us that he tests the ones he loves the most even if they can’t see it at the time. He wants to give them the best reward in the afterlife and to do that they need to earn it.”
His story was cut short when another homeless man entered the area to create conflict. Suffering from some mental illness he attacked one man before going for Stan. Omar wanted to get up and help but Luka held him down.
“Don’t, you will get hurt,” he said. The fear was back in his eyes and he worried for his safety here.
The conflict was short lived with nothing more than burses and injured pride. Stan promised to keep Luka safe and Omar gave his mobile number to him so that he could call should any trouble rise again.
It was getting later in the night but Omar refused to leave Luka until he felt safe again. One of Stan’s followers came and sat down beside them telling them of an alternative place to sleep if he really felt unsafe but Omar wanted his friend to stay near Stan as he was going to help him in the morning.
Omar stayed for some time after until he was happy that Luka was ok. He listed to the stories of everyone around him. Learning that through family conflict, rejection and poor life choices they had found themselves on the streets. They were tales that could have befallen anyone. The police visited and left surprised to see Omar there as one of them recognised him from his place of work.
When the night reached its highest point Omar left. He tucked his friend in and promised to try and see him again the next day. Luka curled up and fell asleep.
The next day Luka did exactly what was instructed of him. He went to the shelter with his new friend Stan and began on the road to freedom.
He never saw Omar again and never forgot his kind act. Omar also remembered his friend and even though he did not speak to Luka he kept a watchful eye on him from a distance. You see Omar looked out for his friend whenever he passed through the streets. Not because he wanted to avoid him but because he wanted to make sure that he was doing alright on his own. However, if he saw him struggling again he would have been the first to offer a helping hand.
Sometimes people come into our lives and we don’t know why but that’s ok. We don’t always need too know. It is there warmth that reminds us that there is some good out in the world and it is worth going on.