I am taking a break from serving tea, and am sitting relaxing with three of our guys.: Alan, Phil and Sam.
I wonder how I would have reacted to them four years ago before taking on this job. I expect I would have hurried past the line of weary-looking men and women, poorly dressed, down at heel, waiting for the doors of the Salvation Arly Citadel to open for a free lunch. (There IS such a thing, no matter what they say, and it's good. )
"How are you?" I ask Sam, really wanting ro know.
"Alright," he replies with a grin. Sam has Huntington's disease, and he won't be alright for long, but we don't speak of it.
"How are you Mary?"
I'm aright too.
"How about you, Phil?"
"Oh! I'm alright as well."
I feel a game coming on.
"What about you, Alan?" You don't look alright to me. Can you rise to an 'OK'?"
Alan laughs. He has severe arthritis, and and is in pain.
"Oh, I think I can manage an OK."
"Three alrights and an OK! I need to go round the other tables and collect statistics. "
Checklists, flipcharts, spreadsheets. We explore the possibilities.
Alan moves us on with, "I dreamed I failed my degree exams last night. Took them forty years ago. And passed. Funny things dreams ..."
The conversation drifts on. Famous dogs and their antiquity ( Sam's speciality) tattoos ... Sam has a tattoo of Pluto. Did Pluto, friend of Mickey Mouse, have a wife? I think he did, and that she was killed off. Why kill off a cartoon dog, and can a cartoon dog actually be said to be dead?
No conclusion is reached.
12:50 and I have to run. I explain that I almost missed the bus last week. The driver saw me, and turned round to pick me up. Everybody marvels at this.
"All real living is meeting." A quote from Jewish philosopher Martin Buper. I've commented on it before, because it is profoundly true.
I guess there's a choice: stick with our prejudices about faceless street people, or sit with a mug of tea and three friends trying to remember if Pluto had a wife.