It is one of the coldest days of the year. I station my car by Kerry Park, and skirt the lake toward The Sails where I will champion the urban poor. When I arrive at the giant icon four people huddle against a steely wind. Three are leaders while the fourth, come to ask questions, is soon driven away by the freeze. When others do not join us I privately wonder if it is only the cold that keeps the city away.
We dissolve, and my car takes me on a tour of five supermarkets where I solicit flowers for the deprived who will come to a portrait event later in the week. At the entrance of my first attempt, a cluster of people in Santa hats jingles its bells and asks for a donation. I no longer carry cash, but the lady thrusts a brown bag at me with the intent that I fill it. I appreciate their hearts, but I do not like their hats; Santa is the patron saint of consumption, and lives in shopping malls bursting with excess.
I enter the bountiful market and ask for the manager amid the bleeps of registers and the clichéd numb of muzak. My request pinches him and he discourages flowers for the homeless because outside they would freeze quickly. I explain further, and coax a promise of some blossoms for the event. The second manager also stints, with a manner that seems to question the effect of donation on profit. But he too offers some blooms. My success is short-lived by the remaining three who, among the abundant produce of the season, state their conditions for benevolence.
On my way home a bearded man in tattered clothes stands on a median and holds a sign for motorists: TRAVELLING BROKE AND HUNGRY ANYTHING HELPS xxx GOD BLESS AND THANK YOU. He is surrounded by giant shopping malls that encircle him like parentheses enclose a dot. I give him a parking dollar found in a compartment, and when I explain my mission for the poor he generously allows his photo to be taken. While waiting for a green light I find another dollar but traffic pushes, so I cast it hopefully at his knapsack where it bounces and lands amid traffic too hurried to help.
Home enfolds me with the warmth of an orange tabby. My wife is glad to see me, and as we prepare dinner a stereo plays the anthems of the season. I eat two bowls of home-made soup, a plate of broccoli, potatoes and salmon steak; a fresh garden salad and a glass of cabernet. Here, the man on the median has become a being from a far off country. But as I enjoy the flavours of earth and sea, the image of a coin cast on a busy street spreads like ink through my bubble of satisfaction.