I have a story to share with you.
Last night I was out for dinner, great restaurant, I was sitting in the window booth eating, and outside the window, a man came up and gestured to me. He had a painting in his hand. And he was waving for me to come outside.
Now, as odd as it was to me, I knew this man. I’d met him before. In fact, I’d bought a painting from him before. It was about 30km away, during the day, months ago, where I was waiting on my Oporto order with my son.
Back then, I remember feeling that lizard brain fight or flight reaction of fear and protection, my first instinct to ignore this crazy person calling to me from outside a service station. But I got over that, and went outside. He was an artist, homeless. He’d painted these quite good indigenous “dot” style paintings, and was selling them for money. I brought my son out, introduced them, and he chose a painting.
So I recognised this man, months and kilometres later, last night. And I left my conversation and went outside. A young woman on a date who had obviously witnessed this silent exchange said as I was passing “you’re not actually going to go outside are you?”. “It’s okay, I know him,” I said.
I wished I’d said “why? Why would I not go outside for one minute to have a connection with a fellow human. Imagine what his life is like, homeless, in winter? He’s using his talent to make art to offer the world, and I should ignore him, shame him?”
Anyway, so I went outside, and shook his hand, and told him I remember him, and I’d bought a painting with my son. He didn’t remember me, and introduced himself, and showed me his painting, and I asked him to describe it to me, and he did, and I bought the painting, which depicts regrowth after a bushfire, and I went back inside with the painting, excited to hang it and tell my son about it.
Half an hour later, there was a knock on the window again, and the same man was back, waving me outside. I excused myself and went outside.
He’d spent the money, and wanted help. Just $30 to get a taxi back home. I told him no. I told him I thought he was talented, and I loved his paintings, but if he’d blown the money in half an hour, he’d have to work things out. I told him my father was an alcoholic, and I’d lived with this kind of thing all my life. I shook his hand again and went back inside, and finished my meal, and my wine, and my conversation in the nice, warm restaurant.
So now I have a second painting from this man. This addict. This merchant. This painter. This human.
And I can’t stop thinking about him.