My three-year-old son and I, walking through central London. Covent Garden, to be precise. One-thirty in the afternoon.
Austin: [tee hee]: Mummy, that man's sleeping on the floor! Look! [tee hee] Why's he doing that?
[A homeless man, bundled in grime-edged sleeping bags and broken boxes, was lying prone in a doorway.]
Me: He doesn't have a house, like we do. So he has to sleep on the street instead. It's very sad.
Austin: But why doesn't he just ask his friends if he can come for a sleepover at their house?
[At this point, I felt a mixture of pride and sorrow. Satisfaction that my son's experience of the world meant he was sure there would always be a friend to help a person out of a bad situation. Grief that the reality of the world lies far from this ideal, and that, little by little, he'll come to learn this.]
Me: I think the man's friends probably don't have houses either [I couldn't bring myself to tell Austin that this man might not have any friends at all].
Austin: All our friends have houses. And the children in my class do. And all the ones in Big School.
Me: I know. We're very lucky. It's nice to have a house where you, me, Daddy and Gwen can sleep, isn't it?
Austin: yes. I like our house.
This week, my gift was a donation to homeless charity Shelter.
Homeless picture copyright Tomas Castelazo