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Thread by @jamesgleave1: "The strangest thing happened to me on the way home tonight. It’s something I’m still digesting, as it was something that will no doubt stick […]"

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The strangest thing happened to me on the way home tonight. It’s something I’m still digesting, as it was something that will no doubt stick with me forever. So bear with me as i think its important to share 1/n
I was waiting for a connecting train at Bletchley station. When i noticed a small, old lady with bags, visibly shaking and nervous on the platform.
Usually, i would brush this off. She has a family member who has just popped off somewhere, she doesn’t want to be disturbed, that sort of thing. But something tonight made me think otherwise. So i simply asked ‘Are you alright?’
Needless to say she wasn’t. We chatted for a good 45 minutes on the platform where she revealed her life story. Having immigrated from Bangladesh 20 years ago, she has had a torrid time.
Spouse abuse, and her family siding with said spouse seemed to be at the heart of it all. Beatings, rape, the whole works. After several years, she has had enough, and ran out with the change in her bag and clothes on her back. That was two weeks ago.
In that time, she had been to the Council and Job Centre for help for housing and benefits. The former, despite her being vulnerable, could do nothing. The latter would take 6 weeks for her to get her benefits to which she is entitled, so long as she has an address.
You can see how well that will turn out. She had been sleeping rough, which had aggravated her arthritis. Not serious enough for A+E, she couldn’t get a doctors appointment by just turning up, and she can’t get a free prescription for the pain. Spending any money on food and meds
She was a broken woman. Clearly of a good nature and a kind soul, but she was in bits. Wondering how to go on. She came to the train station, despite being scared of trains, because she had nowhere else to go. And now, she is talking to me.
Having heard all of this, this was clearly unacceptable, and i couldn’t just do nothing. So having chatted to her some more, and comforted her as best i could, i got on the phone.
Local Council: Nothing. Not even emergency accommodation.
Local Voluntary Groups: All full, with no beds for the night. In Milton Keynes FFS!
Local Shelters: The same.
Citizens Advice: Not open until Wednesday.
Doctors: No appointments until Thursday (!!!!)
I began to get desperate. Hostels: nothing. Hotel rooms: Wouldn’t take her even when i offered to pay. In a final role of the dice, i rang local churches (she is a Muslim, but was afraid that local mosques may shun her so begged me not to ring them).
We struck gold. The vicar at a church a few stops away agreed to take her in for the night, in his home with his wife and children. And he would take her to the local council the next morning. Its not much, but it is something.
I should state now that the station staff were nothing but supportive. As i had established the relationship they let me lead, but went and bought her some food and drink from the station cafe, and allowed her to ride for free on the train when i explained the outcome. Brilliant.
So I rode with her the few stops, walked to the vicarage with her, and explained the situation to the vicar and his somewhat bemused, but welcoming family. He repeated his offer to her. A bed for the night, plus a couple of good meals, and taking her to get help.
Before i left, she turned to me and said “It’s people like you that make this world worthwhile, no matter how horrible it is.” I’m not an emotional man, but that just broke me completely. So i said a hurried goodbye and good luck. Keeping up appearances etc.
Reflecting on this now, it has brought into focus many things that i was aware of and had an understanding of before, but this really brought it home for me.
Our support networks are assumed to be as so: 1. Family. 2. Community. 3. The State. We are busy making it so hard to access 3 for those in need, who are in need because they don’t have 1 and 2. If you fall through, you are fucked.
That, in modern Britain, is shocking. Utterly unacceptable, whatever your view of scrounges and benefits cheats. But by targetting them, innocent, vulnerable people are not getting the help they need.
Also, people and not religions are moral and immoral, though religions may provide a moral framework for many. No doubt if i had run a local mosque, she would have a room for the night. But i had to take her at her word.
In the end, someone from another religion stepped up when it mattered. Her religion mattered not, basic humanity did. That is how to live your life in a moral manner.
Finally, had I never asked a simple question, this woman would not be getting help. I’m not seeking any praise for this, but I urge you all that when you see someone acting strange, ask them if they are alright.
The worst you will often get is a “Fuck off, mate” that you can probably get over. But we expect the likes of the Police, station staff, people with responsibility to do this. No, we all need to do it, and not be locked in our own worlds all the time while this happens.
So if you see someone who may be in need, just ask. Because nobody else may do it, and the systems we have in place may not pick them up. And the consequences of that don’t bear thinking of.
So, you’ll have to excuse me if i don’t spend the evening discussing the political moves of a blonde halfwit, when people like this dear old lady are having to go through this. In Britain. In 2018. We are better than this, so lets act it /fin
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