The very busy area of Victoria station with thousands of people rushing around its confusing maze of road works trying to get somewhere or away from somewhere else. In amongst all this commotion in a parallel world sits Mary. Scrunched up and moulded into a small package so that passers-by are immune to her existence. She sits there with an old coffee cup, probably with no more than a pound in there.
(If everyone who walked past her gave her 10p, by the 100th person she would have the £10 for one night’s accommodation. This can be a reality, but it isn’t).
She is always a little weary when we first approach. I guess it’s intimidating when 5 people surround her as she sits on the ground. We probably get asked many times in the day “Hey how are you” even though the answer may be of no interest to the person asking. However for Mary and many others alike I doubt anybody asks how they are at all, so I understand if she is surprised. We all huddle up around her and offer her food, something to drink, clothes and toiletries. She is appreciative of it all. Maybe in many people’s eyes she has nothing, but she gave us everything she had in that smile.
I always remember one time when I asked her if there was anything else she needed, to which she giggled like a little school girl, looked around for other passers-by then leaned forward and whispered, “women’s underwear”. Seeing this child like spirit is a glimmer of light in her otherwise dark world.
She has been recently evicted from her usual busy location opposite the station to a dark looking corner next to a building. She is not happy there and doesn’t feel safe. Unfortunately Mary’s presence doesn’t feature as one of London’s tourist attractions hence why has been swept away. I feel resentment in her voice each time she talks about the Police. They have forced this 70 year old lady away from her safer location, arrested her and put her in a cell, then to be thrown back onto the streets when they don’t know what else to do. Apparently these are the people whose job it is to keep us safe.
Her other alternative is a hostel. What happens when she gets there…she is threatened by drug users and fears that all her belongings will get stolen. She doesn’t want to be there. She can’t be there!
She has one small trolley with all her belongings inside. What she has in abundance though is her faith in God. Every time I’ve seen her she looks towards the sky and says that he will look after her. Her inner spirit and belief re-assures me that she will be alright, but the last time I saw her that spirit seems to be dwindling. Through whatever she has experienced in life, she is just a little girl inside that wants to be cared for and be safe.
Dear London, you are an amazing place and I love you but why have you forgotten about Mary’s smile?