There are more homeless people in Sydney now than there used to be. It’s something that I worry about quite a lot. I used to do volunteer work with homeless youth and their stories would break your heart. Literally. I wanted to take them all home with me. So many of them had no one at all who loved them. No one at all.
I get very angry when I think of people living on the streets and how difficult it is for social workers and welfare organisations to help them. The money just isn’t there. I read about people who live in fifteen million dollar mansions right on the waterfront who complain about how difficult it is to get the Tuscan tiles they need for their spa bath through customs and I just want to punch them in the face.
I befriended a homeless man who used to live in our local park. He gave up on life when his wife and son were killed by a drunk driver. He lived in a sandstone cave with his cat. I used to take him food and warm clothes. He was an astounding artist. He could sketch absolutely anything.
One day I couldn’t find him and one of the council workers maintaining the gardens told me that he had died. The Council took all of his stuff and burned it, even his art. I was devastated they burned his art – I would have kept it forever.
There was an article in the local paper about him a month later. Turned out he had had a house of his own the entire time, he just couldn’t live in it all alone. His left his entire estate to charity. A distant nephew laid a claim on the estate but lost in court. I was glad, I don’t think he even knew his Uncle was living in the park.
I felt sad thinking about my old friend today and was inspired to write a short story.
To my friend Donald, this one’s for you…..
DEAR GOD, THIS IS KITTY.
This is Kitty Johnson. You probably know me. I’m 8 years old and I live in the house with the pink door. My brother thinks it’s a really ‘Barbie’ door. He wants to paint it black because he’s an emo and gets embarrassed when his friends come over and they laugh at the pink door. I don’t know why they laugh, it’s just a pink door after all.
Well, God, you know me. You know I listen to my Mum and Dad and that I look after my little sister even though she used up all of Mum’s Chanel lipstick on her Cabbage Patch dolls and said I told her to. Mum was really mad. It was limited edition lipstick. ‘Rare as hen’s teeth,’ my Mum said. I still don’t know what she meant by that because I looked up hens on the internet and hens is short for chickens and guess what? They have beaks not teeth. It’s one of those confusing things grown-ups say like :’I’ll tell you when you’re older’ or ‘Daddy and I are just doing yoga on the bed.’
Anyway, God, the reason I’m praying to you is because I want you to help someone. I saw a man today when Mum and me were at the shops. He was asleep in front of the pizza shop. He had a newspaper for a blanket and no shoes. When I asked my Mum what he was doing there she said he was homeless. I found out later that when you are homeless you don’t have a house to live in and probably no family to take care of you.
I know I shouldn’t be cheeky, God, but it seems you’ve made a mistake letting people be homeless. I know if you had seen this man you would have been sad about it. He had a kind face, like a grandad. I thought about my grandad being homeless and I felt my heart twist. I don’t want my grandad to be homeless. I don’t want the man in front of the pizza shop to be homeless, either.
When Mum was cooking dinner I got my stupid brother to take me back to the pizza shop. First of all, God, I’m sorry for calling my brother stupid. I apologise, I really do, but he is a complete idiot. I had to make a deal with him to get him to take me there because I’m not allowed to walk to the shops by myself. There were two parts to the deal. Number one, I had to buy him hot chips on the way home. Number Two, I had to get Suzy Walker’s phone number. How I’m going to do it, I don’t know, she’s the most popular girl in the 6th grade and she thinks I’m a dork, but I agreed. You see, God, I was desperate.
Second of all, I’m sorry for going to the shops without telling my mother but I knew she would stop me if she knew what I was going to do. I have thirty dollars from my last birthday. I was going to buy a Tamagotchi with it but when I saw the homeless man I thought I would give it to him instead. My stupid brother (oops, there I go again) said it won’t even get him a room for the night but ‘every little bit helps,’ that’s what Aunt Georgia says.
When we got to the pizza shop the man was awake. He smiled at me. His teeth were brown. I don’t think he has a toothbrush. I walked up to him and gave him the thirty dollars. My hands were shaking so much I thought I was going to drop the money. The man took the money. His eyes were shiny like Mum’s are when she sees the World Vision ads on TV. ‘That’s my life savings,’ I said. ‘But I want you to have it. I don’t want you to be homeless anymore.’
‘You are a little angel sent from God,’ said the man. His voice was soft, like he was only used to talking in whispers, but he was nice, I could tell, he didn’t have a mean bone in his body. As my stupid brother dragged me away, the man whispered: ‘Thank you, Angel.’ I felt proud, like I’d won a prize. My brother called me a dimwit.
So that’s really why I’m praying, dear God. If the man thinks I’m an angel then I have to do what angels do and help him. Please help him not to be homeless anymore, dear God, please. He is one of your children. It makes me cry a little to think of him sleeping on the ground every night with no pillow or even a teddy bear to cuddle.
I know you’re busy, dear God, but please help this man. He deserves it. I don’t want him to think I’m not really an angel.
Forever and ever Amen.
Your humble servant,