While in Sydney this weekend for a concert, I was lucky enough to meet an amazing homeless man named Brian.
I first noticed him while walking past the new superstore ”Sephora”. While dozens of women lined up outside the makeup giant, a homeless man sat in the midst of the busy shoppers, his long straggly grey hair hanging from under a red Santa hat. He knelt on the ground, his head bowed, with a collection of shoe-polishing gear in front of him. What really caught my eye though, was the cardboard sign on his trolley.“Christmas is just around the corner. Please stop and support me. Just Haveing (sic) a go. Jesus loves you and me. Thank you. Happy new year.”
I saw a lot of homeless people while in Sydney, but this man just really stood out to me. I usually don’t give money (I’d rather buy groceries for someone) but I had a good vibe about the man before me. He seemed to be giving it a go, and I respected that. I barely had any loose change, but I gave what I had, and sat on the ground and said hello. It was then that I met Shoe-Shine Brian.
Brian told me about his life story, and how he spent the first 16 years of his life in and out of boys homes. He has almost no family left, except 2 brothers in Melbourne who he is trying to save enough money to visit one day. Despite his life, Brian is very positive. “I don’t believe in feeling sorry for myself,” he said. “I believe there’s something more out there, a God. I believe I will see my family again one day in another life.” He told me about the time he found an expensive watch in his money-box, which had been dropped accidentally by a regular customer who was giving him some change. When Brian found the watch, he held onto it until he saw the man next… The wealthy man couldn’t believe it.
“I could have easily sold it, “ said Brian. “But I believe very much in Karma.”
I sat on the dirty ground for a while with Brian. It was my hope that people might pay more attention to the quiet man whom they were all rushing by. After a while, I noticed a woman in the distance taking photos of us, and another came up and donated $10. I could see the glances from passers-by, who seemed to be slowly taking more notice.
Brian knows there are sadly a lot of scammers in the City, and he says he agrees it is better to buy a homeless person some groceries than to give money. I really felt that he was a person of integrity and pride; someone who would rather work than beg. That is why he works as a shoe-shiner, an idea which came to him after some traumatic events. He believes it was God who gave him the vision.
When I got home this afternoon, I did a Google search and found that Shoe-Shine Brian is well-known within Sydney as a respected, intelligent man trying to earn a living. This blog from Sheridan Voysey has some great insight into what it’s like to meet Brian, but the story that touches me most is that of the time he gave away his small earnings to another homeless man who needed shoes.
“My heart just went out to him,” Brian said.
Not everyone will have presents this year. Some won’t even get to see family. But if you believe in helping a fellow Aussie, why not do something to brighten their day? If you’re in Sydney’s CBD you can get Brian to shine your shoes for a small donation. According to ”Shoe Shine Brian’s” Facebook page (such a great idea!) he can be found at Martin Place (opposite the fountain) in the mornings and Pitt St. Mall (Myers food court) in the afternoons. I met him outside Nine West Shoes/Sephora near Market St.
Also, don’t be afraid to stop by for a chat!
PLEASE share this story widely. Maybe if enough people see it, Brian can get enough customers before Christmas to help him afford to travel to Melbourne to see his 2 remaining brothers.