The Homeless on Happiness – Pt 1 – Shaun

There’s a man sitting on a cardboard box in front of Will’s Memorial Building in Bristol. I bought him a coffee and a sandwich and asked if he minded me sitting down. He shrugged. It was awkward and my offering a roll-up did little to break the ice.

 His name is Shaun and he is over from Wales for a change of scenery. After telling him of my hopes to get some ideas about happiness he mumbled, “I don’t really know” and gave another apathetic shrug. I tried to eke out some profundity but Shaun seemed truly incapable, perhaps unwilling to provide me with any consequential opinions.

            I asked Shaun if everyone has equal potential for happiness. “Yeah” he muttered from beneath the heavy hood that was largely concealing his gaunt, weathered face. He fell silent again.

As we finished our roll ups it dawned on me. Not only was I trying to get blood out of a stone, but I was bothering this man. I said goodbye and got an “Alright mate” in response. Walking away I wondered if asking bewildered people big questions would always lead to nothing. I can’t be sure. I do know that you can’t expect to buy insight for the price of a sandwich and a coffee.

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17 comments

  • *smile* Nicely written post, which I would say taught you a lesson… and, a good lesson it is. Insight, while definitely a skill useful in survival, is not a tool most humans will take to easily, for it is uncomfortable to use. It sounds as if Shaun was not in a place, in his mind, or his life, to feel comfortable with it, for it would remind him of his status, on which he apparently places too much importance… but, then, the view is different from the depths of depression, as I, and many can attest….

    I look forward to reading the rest of this series….

    gigoid, the dubious

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  • Excellent writing. For a couple of years, my commute took me across a park in downtown, DC. There was this guy with a Jesus vibe who intrigued me. I often dropped him a dollar. At the time, I thought it might be cool to try to mine a thought from him each day and write about it. I wanted to call it “a dollar a day”. Alas, I wasn’t writing yet, so I never gave it a try. I’m happy to see that someone else is giving it a go.

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    • “A dollar a day”. I like that. It has a nice ring about it. I’m glad you enjoyed the project, there’s more to come. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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  • Well written post. Perhaps he thought you would not believe being happy to him was living on the street. Thank you for sharing.

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  • This just tells us how the average man who’s weighed down by other, more material worries, has no time to dwell on abstract concepts like happiness, which in direct proportion to his material gains. But you were doing the right thing by trying to help out. Don’t stop. Thanks for following and stay in touch 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right about this man’s happiness seeming proportionate to his material status, that was sadly obvious at the time. I will most definitely continue and there is far more to come. No worries, thank you for the feedback; I really appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

  • That’s an extremely noble profession, Pete. I’m sure you encountered a great number of difficult and thought provoking examples over such a long career. No problem, it’s a fantastic blog… Thank you very much for the feedback, it means a lot! Kind Regards GS

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  • I was an EMT in London for 22 years, and dealt with homeless people on a daily basis. The thing that most often occurred to me, was that it would take too much to go wrong in my life, for me to end up in the same situation.
    Thanks for following my blog, which is much appreciated.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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