When Millie takes me on our daily expeditions we never quite know who we’re going to meet. On my own I’d be a sad old man to be avoided but accompanying a dog gives you an opening into people’s lives.
I might stop and chat with Frank who likes to sit outside of an evening enjoying a last cigarette. Frank lives in sheltered accommodation in the next road. Next week he’s travelling up to Manchester to visit a brother he hasn’t seen for forty years. He’s rather excited about the prospect and gladly accepted my offer to put the event onto my prayer list.
Returning recently, we came upon a man walking round our garden holding a litter picker. He picked what he took to be a piece of litter and placed it carefully into the plastic bag he carried.
Ever curious I greeted him warmly and asked what he was about.
A distinguished looking man probably in his sixties, he explained that when he was feeling down and having a bad day, he’d take his stick and a bag and walk round the town collecting rubbish. He informed me proudly that he’d collected over 6 tons so far. I guess this equates to a lot of bad days.
He was well meant; the ‘litter’ he collected from the garden were actually plastic labels giving the names of recently planted flowers. I didn’t tell him this.
I was reminded of someone else who went around the countryside picking up the flotsam and jetsam that came across his path; not empty crisp packets, but people; a blind beggar the people around tried to shut up, the diminutive tax collector hiding in a fig tree, the woman who’d spent half her life and most of her money trying to find healing.
I wanted to tell him about this other man but someone else came along and the moment passed. I hope my new friend comes back with his litter picking. So, if you’re having a bad day, don’t just sit there feeling sorry for yourself; grab a plastic sack and clean a street.
Sadly too many of the people on the street are young men trying to make contact with a local drug baron. So far lack of courage, or perhaps good common sense keeps me from engaging with them; who knows, though, an opportunity might present itself. Millie will protect me.