At this time of year, as the temperatures drop I am always asking people to spare a thought for the homeless. As you know, my Exodus Foundation’s Loaves & Fishes Free Restaurant provides almost a thousand meals daily to Sydney’s homeless, poor and needy. At this time as year as well as meals, blankets are the order of the day.
As you would no doubt guess not all of our Free Restaurant guests are homeless, although many (probably most) are. Some are people who, after they have paid rent, medical and other utility bills may have less than $5 a week to spend on food. Others are occasionally down on their luck and others need somewhere to come to receive a little bit of kindness in their lives.
One of our at least weekly guests is “Albie”.
Next week “Albie” turns 100.
Albie’s wife died about twenty years ago and he mourns her passing to this day.
When I first met Albie he kept his beloved wife’s ashes in a little jar in his rucksack. Every morning he would say to her “What will we do today, dear?” and he might come and eat at Exodus or go for a walk. As I said, he took her everywhere.
I gotta say, over the last few years, I have neglected to ask Albie if he still keeps his wife’s ashes in his rucksack, although I think he still does. Nevertheless, in a few days time we will all stop eating in the restaurant, stand and as one family, and sing “Happy Birthday” to him.
These days, I suppose, you make your family where you find it. I know Albie has family and probably they will be celebrating with him but for one brief moment in time, all of those people who, to be honest most of polite Sydney’s society has difficulty with, join together as one to sing “Happy birthday” to a lonely old man who misses his wife like all get out.