The Big Issue Seller who made me Stop and Think

Monday, September 22

A few weeks ago, Pete and I were on our way through Waterloo train station, when we decided we had better get some lunch before meeting friends to go Go Karting for his Birthday.

We picked up take away Burrito's, which weren't actually very nice, but at £7.00 each we ate them anyway.

I find eating on the go a little awkward at the best of times, and we certainly didn't want to be those annoying people eating smelly messy food on the train.  

So we ended up standing at the entrance to the station, on the side of the busy road.

As we stepped outside we became aware of a man on the sidewalk trying to sell the Big Issue.
(The Big issue is a magazine produced by an independent charity foundation, and sold by homeless people as a way to earn some money)

His energy was infectious, and standing still watching him working at selling these magazines whilst the world rushed past him was incredible.

Mr Big Issue Seller: Tries to make eye contact with person rushing past. "Good Afternoon Madam, I hope that you are having wonderful day, may I interest you in purchasing a Big Issue magazine today?"

"Madam" casts her eyes down and shakes her head (as I usually do too).

Two tourists walk up to Mr Big Issue Seller, gigantic cameras in hand: "Can you tell us where the South Bank is?" 

Mr Big Issue Seller: "Of course I can!" Very patiently directs tourists where they need to get to and makes them repeat the directions back to him to make sure that they know where they are going.

Mr Big Issue Seller: Smiles at a couple walking past. "Good Afternoon! I hope that you are well today.  May I interest you in purchasing a Big Issue magazine today?"

Couple look the other way, man pulls out his phone and shakes head in annoyance and some disgust.

Mr Big Issue Seller smiles at them as they walk away.

A group of 5 people walk up to Mr Big Issue Seller, carrying shopping bags: "We looking for the so and so hotel" and show him a map on an iPad that they are holding.

Mr Big Issue Seller: "Let me see" he says , and then steps two steps around the map being displayed on the screen to orientate himself. "Oh yes" he announces and then enthusiastically describes the best way there.

Three of the 5 wonder off. The remaining two ask him where the nearest toilets are.

In the next five minutes he approaches another 3 or 4 people with absolute joy and delight asking if they would like to buy a magazine. And gets nothing but a grunt in return.

In the same 5 minutes he happily assists 3 more people with directions.  None of whom even really thank him properly. 

In between this, he sees me watching him eating my overpriced horrible burrito.

Mr Big Issue Seller: "Would you like to buy a magazine?" he beams at me with a crooked smile, but before I can answer he begins to apologise profusely "I am terribly sorry, I think I have asked you already and now I'm interrupting you while you eat!"

At that point a large group of tourists needed more directions so he turns to them with gusto to help them find their way.

I threw away the food wrappers and pulled out the only money I had left on me which was a £5 note. As we walked past him to get to the trains again, I interrupted him as he gave directions to someone else.

"I don't need a magazine" I said, " but you energy is amazing" and I gave him the measly £5 I had in my hand.

He looked at me with utter amazement, and did a little jump while thanking me profusely and then enveloped me in the most gigantic hug.

You would think I had given him a £1000 pounds, and I seriously wish that I could have.

I don't think I've ever seen £5 create such a happy response in anyone!

What an amazing man.

I looked for him again last week when I was at Waterloo, but couldn't find him, I will continue to keep an eye out for him though.  

If you are in London reading this, and you see an African man with a beaming smile trying to sell Big Issue magazines in between giving the world directions outside Waterloo station, please spare him some change.

He deserves it.

Way more than I need another soggy burrito.
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