In recent weeks I have written a lot about how much the city has to offer and how much fun it has been to be a resident here. The city is young and vibrant.
I was walking past the centre of town. A man selling the Big Issue beamed a smile at me and said a cheery “Good morning”. I greeted him back and walked on. How many of us walk on, walk straight past these people who are often in familiar spots around the city day in day out, selling this Magazine. I used to see them in the UK – I see them here but most of us, truth be told, don’t really see them. We walk past.
The next time I was in the city, I saw him again. He is hard to miss and you will see why. This time though I did not walk past. I went over and introduced myself and sat next to him as I heard his own story.
His name in Jason and he is Samoan, though he was raised in NZ. He is a graduate in Social Sciences and came to Australia because there are more opportunities here. He found work quickly and carried on for a while until he decided that this was not the field he wanted to be in but to be able to use his qualifications here is difficult and he needs to re qualify and pay the fees to enable him to be registered in Australia. He ran out of money and because he is a foreigner he is not entitled to Centre link support or housing. He knew he had to do something as he was left with two dollars in his pocket so when a friend introduced him to the Big Issue he decided to take this up and sell them on the street. Jason is big, islanders often are, in fact his weight impacts on his life and his health and I can imagine that if I carried all that weight it would be a struggle to walk, let alone stand for hours at a time and with a smile on my face. There is no bitterness or rancor in his story. I take it at face value. He is matter of fact about the prospects.
He buys the magazine for $3 and he sells it for $6 and he can keep the $3. For $3 I can buy a bag of salad. A loaf of white bread. A burger. He is saving to put the money towards paying for his registrations and his licenses so he can work again. “Saving” he said, but I can’t begin to see how he manages. He is temporarily housed in a facility for three months. It is anyone’s guess what will happen to him after these three months. I walked away full of his story. Humbled by the effort he made to earn these small amounts. The city is welcoming but it is not easy for everyone. There are people who struggle on a daily basis and those who have much uncertainty in their lives.
On my way home, there he was again and I rushed over. With his story in my head I forgot to buy the Magazine. I brought it home and in all honesty I didn’t think it was going to have much to engage me. How wrong I was. I read it from cover to cover and one or two of the articles were outstanding.
It made me rethink the Magazine but more importantly it made me aware of how much I need to pay attention not just to the fun side of this lovely city but also to the side, which we tend to walk by. Stop and make time. Pick up a Magazine, hear their story if you are curious. If you are not, show you care and make a difference to the hours they have to put in to earn their evening meal.