I moved house
In my post ‘What’s the point?’ I mentioned three seemingly unrelated life-changing events: I met my wife, I started attending a regular business lunch, and I moved house.
The safety of the ’burbs
Until a few years ago Vanessa (my wife – and subject of a future post ‘Three life changing things, number three’) and I were living in Melbourne’s eastern ’burbs. Each weekday we’d jump in the Merc – with its lounge-chair-style comfort, sound-proofing and double-glazed windows – safely cocooned for the hour-long commute to work. I’d drop V off at the Dept of Justice then head to Southbank, park the car and take the elevator to my office in the IBM Tower. We’d each spend the day with high-powered, successful people doing high-powered important stuff before heading back home to the ’burbs again.
Stuff the commuting
But all this commuting on top of our long working week was wearing us both down. We decided it was time to say “goodbye” to the commute and “hello” to a stroll; we ditched the house and took up inner-city apartment living. Our one-hour drive to and from work each day had become a five minute walk – in fact, if I started playing ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ on the iPod as I left home, it would still be playing as I opened the office door! Great huh?
Who are all these street people?
But one very big thing had changed – we were no longer cocooned. Walk out of our building, turn right and, more often than not, 20 metres from our front door-step there’d be a beggar sitting on the pavement with his dog and an up-turned hat with a few coins in it. Around the corner on Collins Street there’d be a woman selling magazines from a shopping-cart and another guy would walk up and ask for money. An IT geeky-looking guy would be sitting out the front of 7-Eleven with his hat on the pavement in front him.
Who are these people? Beggars at the ‘Paris’ end of town? Living rough? This is Australia for Christ’s sake [or insert preferred deity here] – we have the dole, and emergency accommodation! But they were everywhere. It didn’t make sense, or so I thought. But there seems to be a large gap between what services we believe there are against how effective they really are.
They’re real people, man
So I started paying a little more attention. Then I started saying “G’day”. And asking “How’s your day?” I wasn’t just randomly handing out money – I started to engage, and importantly, I realised these people are just like you and me. They’d just been dealt a bad hand or were down on their luck. It could happen to any one of us.