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There is a young man making sandwiches. He packs one stack of cheap, end cut ham on white bread into a plastic lunchbox, which slides into the bag he wears when he cycles to university. The other stack he wraps in grease-proof paper, carefully and holds in his hand as he walks down stairs to the parking. Before he carries his bag down the slope to where his bicycle is chained to a hook in the wall, he stops, waves at someone, and changes course. He carries his second stack of paper-wrapped ham sandwiches over to an old man, weather worn from street living, who is hunched on a low wall, in the dubious shade of a sickly tree. The old man doesn’t greet him, like usual, today. Instead he is holding a thick piece of throw-away cardboard in front of him and a stick of charcoal that the young man saw a careless high-school art student drop the day before. The old man is sketching, slowly.
“I used to be an artist once.” He says.

***

The young man is carrying the mornings stack of paper-wrapped ham sandwiches in a plastic bag, because he has an extra bag to take to university, and does not have a hand free to hold them gently, like usual. He extends the bag to the old man on the low wall, and asks him to take his sandwiches. Reaching into the bag the old man starts, and then draws out a sketch of a lizard, done on thick cardboard.
“But this is what I drew, weeks ago, and gave to you.”
“Yes, please put it back. It’s not for you.”
The old man frowns, exchanging drawing for grease-proof paper. “Why is it in the bag?”
“I’m giving it to someone. I need to stop at the Cafe round the corner before class and I need to give it to someone there.”
The old man’s frown deepens at the mention of the cafe. He does not like the cafe owner. They have had words.
“Who’re you giving it to at the cafe?”
The young man is already walking away, impatient to start his day. He answers in a call over his retreating shoulder: “The guy who runs it. He keeps talking about how people living on the street are dirty and a nuisance. This is to help him understand.”

Moral: Outreach should never only run in one direction.

2014-09-09 17.13.26

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One thought on “Rules of Communal Living: 2

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