Posted on: 3 September 2021
One evening at the end of November a couple of years ago, the front door bell rang. I can never find the front door key, so I (reluctantly) went out of the side door and as I came around the side of the house I saw a thin, grubby lad in his late twenties — he looked a bit battered and was bouncing on his toes, never still.
“Hello,” I said. He almost ran towards me and launched into a garbled story of someone in Preston who kept taking money out of his account, a girlfriend who was going to have her electricity cut off and no money left. I never did get his story straight but it came down to the fact that he needed to borrow £8 that night. He was clutching a sheaf of papers. A tenancy agreement for number 1, what used to be a bail hostel but I’m not sure what it is now —it’s frequently changing residents often seem an unsavoury lot. He had bundle of bank statements with deposits and withdrawals, all less than I spend on coffee when out shopping. He was very anxious to prove that he was not homeless and that he had work.
I couldn’t untangle his story and I’m not sure how much of it was true but I recognise desperation when I see it.
“Stay there,” I said. Polite as he was, I didn’t want him following me into the house. I went and got £10 out of my purse.
“I only want £8,” he said, staring at the £10 note.
“I haven’t any change,” I replied holding it towards him. A bit of a verbal tussle followed.
“I’ll pay it back, I promise,” he shouted, as he stuffed his papers and the £10 in his rucksack and ran off up the road.
I went back into the house, thinking, “That’s the last I’ll see of that, but it’s nearly Christmas…”
The reactions of the people that I told about it, varied between horror, admiration and amazement that I could be so stupid. “He’ll be back for more.” “He’ll tell his mates.” Basically, they were saying, “What a fool.”
The following Friday the doorbell went again and this time he was at the side passage to meet me, proudly brandishing a £5 note. “I’ll get the rest, I promise” and off he shot on his bike.
Friends were grudgingly surprised and pleased.
The week before Christmas, he was there again. This time I wasn’t in and I got back from walking the dog to find him trying to find a piece of paper to write me a note to go with the final £5. I tried to make him keep it. He was horrified. I was humbled.
I wish in a way that I had been a bit later, so that he could have written me that note but I still see him about occasionally and we always exchange a cheery “Hello”.
He totally restored my faith in human nature and perhaps I restored his too.