By Neil Brownhill
(A slightly modified version of a blog post published 4th December 2010 on ‘The Ramblings of a Middle Aged Man’)
This story starts on a typical two days / night in our capital. I’m up early, and on the Virgin train, going about my normal routine, minding my own business, and I hope (or at least, trying my best to), change the lives of people in awful situations through no fault of their own. So client number one is a great chap, albeit a Millwall fan (we all have our faults) in his late fifties, who is brain injured, and needs, in later life, a big care regime. Sadly he is not able to manage his own financial affairs, so with his Deputy, I advise that around £800,000 to £900,000 invested will, with my advice, ensure he is looked after for life. Then, I’m dashing off on the tube back into central London, to see client number two. If ever there was a ‘cock-up’ by the NHS, then this is another one for the grandchildren. We agree on a strategy for around £1.3 to £1.35m. This money, invested in the right way, means Mum and Dad can relax, safe in the knowledge that their son will be looked after, when they are too old to look after him.
So it’s job done for Thursday and tomorrow (Friday) morning is, sadly, another brain-injured child and a good example of how the NHS cleanses its errors with cash. In this case, the ‘purse of silver’ was around £4m. Would the family turn the clock back for a different Doctor at the time of birth? Would the family drive half an hour further to a different hospital? I’ve thankfully never met a family who would not give the money back, for a chance to turn the clocks back and make it all different for their child. So far this sounds good doesn’t it? But what if my clients live longer than expected? What if the cost of their 24-hour care increases above the interest or investment returns I can achieve? Who will ensure they are looked after? Yes I’m a Christian, with my faith and beliefs, it drives me forward to do all I can to help so many people. Does that make me better? Does it give me divine insight into the global equity markets? Does it enable me to turn water into wine? Can I feed 5,000 with just five fishes and some bread? Sadly not. Faith, moving mountains, is a different blog altogether, but let’s remember that the title of this blog is
“The Bad Samaritan”
Upon leaving Leicester Square Tube tonight, I sent a cheeky tweet about the busker who always sings “let me take you by the hand, and lead you through the streets of London….”, I think Ralph McTell sang it during a Val Doonican Christmas special one year in the 80’s.
Whilst tweeting my ‘mickey-take’ of London, I saw a beggar on the steps of the tube. Yeah, just another normal beggar, the type that you see every minute of the day in every town or city around the world. But something caught my eye…..Something made me notice him….Why?? Interrupted mid-tweet….. I think “Oh this stupid Blackberry won’t bloody tweet, and I have a joke to tell to my Facebook friends and Twitter followers”. It was my excuse for not looking at him, or looking him in the eye. Two hours later, it dawned on me – on my way back to the hotel, I realised why that man had caught my eye earlier on….. He had no shoes on. Why no shoes? Lord Young resigned recently for his comment “some people have never had it so good” and the public were in uproar. The public said “how dare this man, in the middle of a recession, say we’ve never had it so good”. I wanted to sit down next to the man (I prefer to call him a man, rather than ‘a beggar’, because that is what he is), and put my arm around him, and simply ask:
“How is it that you are in this position?”
“What can I do to help you?”
“Where are you sleeping tonight?”
“Do your family know where you are?”
Then in a situation, like we see in a ‘Tom & Jerry cartoon’, where we see a mini devil and an angel, one on either shoulder, a conversation took place in my head..… It went as follows:
Devil: “These tramps are on £50k a year from mugs like you”
Angel: “Give him a break, help him”
Devil: “Yeah, what a great act, cold winter’s night, and no shoes. You sucker”
Angel: “You don’t know his life or history, or what made it come to this. Listen and understand”
Devil: “Even the Mayor of London wants to rid the country of this scourge on our capital”
Angel: “That’s just the media hype looking for a story, listen to the man and his story”
Devil: “Surely you believe the newspapers don’t you Neil, you quote from the financial press often enough?”
I wanted to give him my shoes. And the consequences of doing that were?…. my cold feet on the Tube, me looking like an idiot, and yes, I’ll walk back into the hotel with no shoes on, but I can live with that. He must be freezing, I thought. I’ll give him my coat. Yes, OK, it’s a ‘wifey purchase’ for me, during the Chelsea manager Mourinho‘s reign (which women did not like him?) and yes it’s warm, but this guy is cold, no shoes, no warmth. I swiped my Oyster card and was halfway down the escalator and thought – what if he is real? What if he is the type of person who I pride myself on looking after? The innocent, the afflicted? Why do the media tell me everyone is a liar? Why do people pretend to be beggars, then take the cash back to their homes? Why did I not give him “the benefit of the doubt?” Why did I not just go back? What if I risked losing £300 and just gave him my shoes and coat? Would Jo mind? No, She would probably tell me off for not giving him my shirt as well! My faith, family and friends say “give”, so who was it that taught me to ‘doubt’. So in summary…………… I admit, I am ashamed of myself and our attitude to homeless people in this country. Could I have done something, anything to help him? If I go back tomorrow will he still be there?