3 weeks ago I was on tour in the UK with Wild Ponies. We had a few shows at the UK Americana Fest in London and prior to that had played a string of gigs in Scotland and the north of England. At Americana Fest we had a showcase as well as being the house band for the after party.
The morning of the after party gig I woke up not feeling well, both physically and emotionally. I was tired, it was cold outside – so cold that it had just started snowing. I had multiple layers on as well as thick socks but once you stepped outside the wind was brutal and seemed to slice right through my clothes and deep into my bones. No matter how hard I tried I could not stay warm. That afternoon we all sound checked in a semi-outdoor venue, which was…cold. We had a few sound issues as the room was like a long tunnel and very challenging to play in, especially with no bodies in there to pad out the natural reverb bouncing off the stone walls. It took a little under 2 hours to get everything sorted and I was feeling more and more grumpy by the minute, trying my best to hide my frustration. On top of that I was hungry and the epic sound check meant that I didn’t have time to grab any food before heading to the awards show. Grrr.
A couple of hours later at around 10pm, I was heading back out into the cold to walk from the awards ceremony to the venue for our after party show. I had around 30mins, so no time to eat. The snow was falling fast and heavy. The long straight street acted like a wind tunnel and I buried as much of my scrunched-up face into my jacket as I could.
I didn’t feel well, I was cold AND hungry. The main thoughts going round my head were that I was probably going to play like crap.
About 100 yards down the road and to the left of me I could see an extremely thin, dishevelled looking man sat on the pavement, shivering in the cold. His skin was pale and weathered. As I got closer I guessed that he was probably about my age but looked considerably older. Underneath him was a semi-wet piece of cardboard and his legs and mid section were wrapped up in a well used blue sleeping bag. He was wearing a stain covered yellow jacket which looked enormous on his tiny body. Snow had begun to form a light blanket over his skeletal body and he looked a very pathetic sight indeed. As I got nearer our eyes locked. He looked at me with a level of sadness I could feel.
“Please, do you have any spare change?” he sheepishly asked.
I dug into my pockets and gave him all I had in cash, which probably came to around £4.50. In that moment I wished I had so much more, but he acted as if I’d handed him a small fortune.
I knelt down to his level and told him how deeply sorry I was that he was out in the freezing cold. He thanked me and said he was one of the lucky ones because he had recently acquired a tent, so he had that to go back to and that many of the people he knew on the street didn’t have anything like that to sleep in.
We chatted a little while longer and then I asked him for his name.
“Trevor” he said.
“Nice to meet you Trevor, I’m Katie” I replied, holding out my hand to shake his. He paused for a moment looking slightly uncomfortable, and instead of shaking me with his right hand, he opted for the left.
“Sorry” he said looking embarrassed, “I would shake you with this hand, but I got it all bashed up today”. He then turned his right hand over to reveal a deep bloody gash running from the middle of his palm to his wrist.
“How on earth did that happen?” I asked.
“It happened earlier today” he replied. “I was just standing out here, like I do, asking people for money, when this guy came up to me, reached for his wallet, pulled out a £20 note (approx. $25) put it in front of my face and set fire to it. He then said ‘try spending that you piece of sh*t’ and punched me. I fell on the concrete and bashed my hand falling. He kept kicking me and wouldn’t stop so I had to get up and run for it. The joys of being someone living on the street”.
In the 30 seconds it took for him to tell me that story, my heart sank to an all new level of low. I couldn’t believe someone would be willing to sacrifice money to make someone else feel like a worthless piece of crap. It was painful and shocking. But as horrible as it was to hear, I could walk away. For Trevor this is his life, and it probably happens more often than I wish to think about. He was frail and very thin, it wouldn’t take much at all to knock him down and he definitely wasn’t a fighter. He was gentle and unassuming, asking a simple question in a very polite way. I know there are a lot of homeless people who are super aggressive and pushy, Trevor is most definitely not one of them, which is probably why certain people pick on him. They know he won’t fight back.
I told him I’d send lots of good prayers his way and that I hoped one day he’d be able to get off the streets and have a better quality of life. He thanked me. We said our goodbyes and I walked on towards my show.
In that moment I realised that all of those ridiculous things I’d been silently complaining about all day were so totally and utterly unimportant. I felt like such an asshole. In my world it doesn’t matter if I don’t feel well, or that I’m cold, or hungry or what ever, no matter how frustrated I may feel it is *all* temporary. I WILL get food. I WILL get shelter. And no matter how many stresses I may have to deal with, I have plenty of people in my circle who love me and would never let me get to the point of begging on the street. The harsh reality is that no-one gives a damn about someone like Trevor. He could disappear tomorrow and nobody would notice.
I’d spent that whole day focussing on everything that wasn’t right, instead of seeing all the amazing things I already have.
That night I walked into the venue with the biggest smile on my face. I was freezing my ass off, but so freakin’ what. I’m playing music with people who love and care about me. I was hungry, but I knew I’d have the best meal ever once I was done. As it turned out, we played to a packed house and the show was amazing. I had a slice of pizza from a pizza truck at the venue, I appreciated it on a whole different level. It was 1am. I bought some extra slices to take to Trevor but when I walked to the corner of the street where I had seen him he had already gone.
Since then I’ve said a prayer for Trevor every day and wondered how he’s doing. He brought me back to centre and helped me remember how much I have to be thankful for.
There but for the grace of God go I.
Thanks for the reminder Trevor ❤ love and hugs ❤