I clicked on a link to Crisis, they help homeless people.
They wanted to get people off the streets for Christmas day.
It would cost £20.48p for one place.
For that a person would get three hot meals.
A warm bed to sleep in.
They showed a clip of a nineteen-year-old homeless person.
He wasn’t very bright, or very articulate.
But he was grateful for what Crisis had done for him.
He said he’d been living with his aunt and uncle but they’d thrown him out, and he’d spent four months living on the street.
Sleeping in bus shelters.
Not really sleeping much, and not just because of the cold and wet. Mainly because of the fear of getting attacked or stabbed.
Funny, we don’t think of homeless people being as scared as us of being out alone all night in the dark.
He also spoke of feeling his body gradually dying as it consumed itself from lack of food.
He spoke of his hopes.
Perhaps now he could get some training and eventually be able to get a job.
His dream was to work in a shop, maybe like Argos, or Asda, or Sainsbury’s.
You could feel, behind the words, what this represented to him.
Not just a job.
A clean, normal, regular, reliable life.
All day, everyday, in a safe, brightly lit environment, among nice, normal, friendly people.
Dry, and warm, and safe.
Every day he’d know where to go, and what to do, and what times to be there.
And he’d have cups of tea, and meals, and conversations.
And people would smile at him, and talk to him about the simple everyday things normal people talk about.
And he’d have somewhere to live.
With a clean bed, with a front door, and a toilet, and bath, even a TV.
Somewhere he could leave his things where they’d be safe.
Somewhere he’d know he could go home to every night.
And the predictability, the regularity, the security, was his dream.
Then, later that evening I was lying in bed.
I was drifting off to sleep while my wife was watching something she’d recorded on Sky Plus, X Factor I think.
Some young man had just sung some song and everyone was saying he’d soon be a star.
He said “I hope so, I don’t want to back to working in the supermarket.”
One of the judges said “Don’t worry, you won’t have to go back to that supermarket.”
And the contestant smiled and the audience cheered.
Another judge said “With a voice like that you’ll never have to work in a supermarket again.”
More audience cheers.
The third judge said “You can forget about the supermarket. You won’t have to go back to working there.”
The audience went wild.
The contestant was beaming, he had everyone on his side.
Finally he felt like he’d been rescued.
He’d been given a lifeline.
Everyone could understand he didn’t want to go back to the daily grind of being forced into doing that crushing, soul-destroying job.
And I thought of the difference between the way he saw working in a supermarket and the way that homeless youngster saw it.
And it hit me just how reality is all about context.
And I remembered some graffiti I’d seen years ago, on a wall in Camden Town, that stayed with me ever since.
OUR DREAMS ARE THEIR NIGHTMARES.