A friend in the way
For probably 5 or 6 years he has stood at the entrance of the supermarket on the ground floor of my apartment block, sometimes dishevelled but with an easy disposition, friendly and amiably from the first time I saw him my heart just melted.
He sells magazines apparently priced to help the homeless, I have never really seen anyone buy a magazine off him, but he stands, greets and never begs or forces his wares on passers-by – on occasion someone has struck up a conversation with him.
Pass the Dutchie
The magazines are in Dutch and my grasp of Dutch is elevated to the level of Double-Dutch such that I could well read most of what I see but never get the context right – Dutch has a way of reusing the same words and ending up with completely different meanings, I am always stumped.
The other day, I wanted a steak, the Dutch menu happily announced kogelbiefstuk – the biefstuk part I got as beef steak but the kogel I know is bullet, as my brain went into overdrive as to how on earth bullets will end up in a beef steak and get presented as food, I dared to give voice to my confusion – how bullets and rump correlate is beyond me – I stopped wasting brain power on it and found that rump and round are used interchangeably for the same kind of steak – so I ordered my rounds of bullet-steak medium-rare and carried on with my life.
Plenty and little
In any case, my friend, yes, I will call him friend because I have chatted to him a few times, learnt of his birthday, found out how his circumstances were changing for him to get his place, his hopes, not necessarily desires but he was a man I knew had many needs that selling the magazines will not meet.
In the years of plenty, I easily parted with a €50 note each time I went shopping and saw him, though it did occur to me that for whatever immediate needs he might have, it would have been better to break it down into smaller denominations.
Then years of famine came where even I had very little, there were times when I only had a meal a day and for a person surviving cancer and on medication, it was dire, difficult and hard, but my friend in my heart seemed to still have greater needs than I, he must have noticed that what I parted with was a lot smaller, I sometimes prayed he would not be at the entrance to the supermarket because I had so little and literally nothing to spare, I could not face him with my situation but I believe he understood that if I did have to give, I would definitely share.
An opportunity to share
Today, I visited the supermarket again and he was there, I had not seen him for a while, I warmly greeted him and went about my shopping, I also consciously wanted to give him something even though I do not have that much.
I cannot say how many hours he had spent standing there but I have even in my own life learnt so well that there is someone out there concerned, involved, engaged and empathetic about me, none of which I can explain than to be grateful and thankful that the most desperate situations just seem to have amazing solutions wending their way towards me.
So, I palmed some money to him, we seem to have developed to concealed exchange which was good enough for me and then I told him I am leaving Amsterdam for good - again, maybe he put two and two together, I cannot say but there was a quick expression of two emotions I did not miss, one of sadly as to why I had to leave and one of thankfulness for what we have shared – his voice trembled as he just about stopped himself from crying.
Floods of kindness
He grabbed my hand and shook it very warmly, wishing me well with whatever I go on to do. At the same time, I saw myself in him, in great need, almost desperate, almost destitute but always blessed for the people who cross my path with gifts, grace, favour and much more – I have many a time been lost for words as I have been overwhelmed with amazing goodness from other people.
Iit is like when I am at my wit’s end I begin to experience a flood of kindness that I am fully aware that nothing I could have done could have created what makes me smile, laugh, cry and give thanks – there is love in this world beyond compare and people who just give, give and give to give hope, to give happiness, to give joy, to give peace and to meet somewhat insurmountable needs.
Today, I learnt anew, the joy of giving and the joy of receiving all at the same time and because of the way some things work I believe that someone somewhere will fill in the gap created by my absence because my friend has an angel just as I do.