One of my friends here in Tokyo is going back to the UK next week to spend Christmas with his family, in Liverpool. As is often the case, before one of us goes away for the Christmas holidays, we had a “catch up” over a few drinks, and a round or two on Nintendo Wii (great fun by the way!).
After a great evening of reminiscing, joking around and just beating hell out of Taiko Drums (much more fun than I can describe here!), it was time to head back home. I was happy – looking forward to Christmas and the New Year, and planning what I was going to buy for my wife and family. That is until I arrived at Ueno station, a major hub in Tokyo.
Outside the station, huddling together under the sparse shelter, and trying to keep out of the chilly wind that was picking up, was an unfortunately large number of homeless people who were hunkering down for the night.
They were carefully fixing their cardboard boxes together, ensuring maximum stability by tying or taping edges to fixed poles, walls or anything at hand. They were lining the floor of their boxes with tarpaulin, old blankets or newspapers, and laying out all of the essentials: book, glasses, gloves, scarves, clocks, cigarettes, and water bottles; everything they would need for the night. And just as is custom when you enter a house in this part of the world, they even took their shoes off when they stepped inside their cardboard home for the night….
I have seen this scene many times in Tokyo, and London, though not the removal of the shoes, and after witnessing something so many times, one would think that the mind hardens to such sights, but I just cannot get used to them.
They are people. They are human beings! I challenge anyone to say that they have never thought of them as anything less…I am guilty…They smell, they are dirty, and they can look pretty disgusting in some cases. We turn our noses up at the sight of them…we see them and walk on…but have you ever wondered how they feel; they have to live like that!
The winter is drawing in, the wind chill is picking up and the air is getting dryer and more frigid with each passing night. It is cold inside, even with a heater on…!
This scenario is repeated in every major city throughout the world, but something really struck me on this particular night. Among all of the decrepit looking boxes, and the grimy filth was one very elegant elderly gentleman, of about 75 or 80 years old.
The sight of him was as stark as seeing a snowman in the dessert. He was wearing neatly pressed slacks, highly polished shoes, and was coated in a rather nice tweed jacket, complete with cravat and peaked hat. He even had a walking cane at his side. He wasn’t someone walking around handing out sandwiches and a hot drink, offering friendly words and support to the needy.
No; he was ONE of them…
As I drew level with him, on my way into the station, he balanced his walking cane against the wall, and was helped by another gentleman into his cardboard box, but not before removing his shoes.
Wow: such dignity.
Here was a gentleman who for the world looked like he was accomplished in whatever field he had chosen, who took pride in his appearance and exuded elegance and grace. He should have been enjoying the fruits of his past labors, surrounded by his family in his warm and comfortable home. Yet here he was, getting ready to crawl into a potential cardboard coffin on the streets of a busy, cold and windy Tokyo city center.
I am not going to cast judgment here, it is too sad for that. But I do encourage personal reflection on this.
Everything we do, and everything we are, is a direct result of our past habits thoughts and actions. I am sure this elderly gentleman has a lot of time to sit and reflect on his past actions that were perhaps unwise, or just didn’t go according to plan. I am sure he would like a chance to start over. If not, perhaps he is just hoping the end will come quick…
Whatever path you are on, take a step back. Ask yourself where am I going? Where will my thoughts take me to? What will be the result of my actions? How are my habits affecting my direction?
It is an absolute travesty, in this day and age, that there are still people making their beds each night on cold city streets around the world, as now, we are experiencing the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of humankind. It is actually easier to build wealth now than in the past. Make sure you utilize the information that is out there to avoid the same fate as the gentleman above.
Whatever you do, I urge you not to turn your nose up at the homeless, no matter how wretched they look. They are people capable of experiencing joy and fear, and they have hopes and dreams.
No matter how bad they smell, YOU don’t have to live with it…that is unless your thoughts, habits and actions are setting you on the wrong path…
The Conspiracy Against Your Money
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