Hi, stranger

This is something I wrote back in summer 2014, based on an encounter with an inspiring stranger.

Who says we need to be talking to people we do not know, minding your own business is clearly the way to go…

Has giving a coin to a homeless person or occasionally donating to a charity become our only way of caring for fellow humans, and have we become so accustomed to seeing neglect, poverty and anger that we’ve become unsusceptible other people’s pain?

It’s Saturday midday. Leicester Square. Endless tourists. Café.

A man flipped out on a woman that was peacefully sitting next to him: “Move, f***ing move, you’re invading my space”. The woman was flabbergasted, she had been sitting there longer than him. The man kept shouting, and she started to cry and moved closer to me and my friend.

Next thing I knew, the man went downstairs, and I decided to follow him. Initially, I intended to tell employees of the abusive customer. He clearly didn’t think that it was a good idea, and kept telling me that I’ll “be better off minding my own business”.

I just stood there.

Finally, I asked: “Why are you so angry?” The man was not prepared for the question, not being able to look in my eyes, he said: “It’s the people, you know? They intimidate me by the way they look at me, their gestures and body language.”

The man then told me that he had been stabbed four times, and that he was convinced that he had suffered more than the rest. “Yes”, I said, “maybe physically. But you can never assume that people around you aren’t hurting. We’re all suffering”.

The man softened after some time and started opening up. Out of all the broken sentences and what sounded to me as a south London accent, one thing was clear: he was looking for answers in people, and not inside himself. So I told the man that I never judged him despite witnessing his outbreak. In return, the man said that he realised that he verbally abused the woman, and that no, he would not like to be treated like this by anyone.

Yes, people lie, cheat and betray their close ones. But there is also love, which the man failed to see.

He told me no one ever spoke to him nicely. His eyes raced with fear and screamed for help. The man also confessed that all he needed was someone to confide in, someone honest to settle down with, someone who won’t play games and talk behind his back.

He said I made his day. He said I made him think, and I wish I had more time to get to know the troubled man. For he is just like everyone else. He is kind and soft; he wants love and understanding.

But the fact is, the man made my day. His eyes spoke of suffering and hope.

Making my way through the crowd with long strides, I look at the clock, worrying that I’ve wasted too much time. I squeeze myself into the tube carriage at rush hour and slowly recall the conversation with the man… It is truly fascinating how far one can go with a little compassion; the man just needed to be heard. Today, I thank the man for restoring my belief in humanity.

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