Tuesday, March 13, 2018

There Are Angels

The day the homeless Tokyo man chanced upon an angel

The Asahi Shimbun  by Miki Aoki/ Staff WriterMarch 13, 2018

People briskly cross a pedestrian crossing in snowy weather at 5:40 p.m. on Jan. 22 in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward. (Shingo Kuzutani)
A 65-year-old man closed his eyes and tried to sleep at a park in central Tokyo in the freezing cold.

His only belongings were clothing in two bags and a blanket a couple of passers-by had given him a few days earlier.

The man had the blanket over his shoulders while sitting on a concrete floor on Jan. 21 in the capital’s Suginami Ward.

When the sun went down, the temperature gradually dropped.

Despite his efforts, he was unable to fall asleep because it was freezing and because of his anxiety. He kept asking himself, “What will become of me?”

He was a day laborer, but it had become increasingly difficult to find a job as he got older. He finally became unable to pay the rent for his one-room apartment and had been driven out of his home five days before.

Exposed to the cold, soon he could not move his legs.

It was then that an unknown woman came up out of the blue and spoke to him.

“The weather report said it is going to snow,” she said.

The short woman was wearing a windbreaker and appeared to be in her 30s or 40s.

“Staying here will be dangerous, so you should go to the hospital," she said. "Or shall I try and introduce you to some kind of shelter."

He was so astonished at the surprise offer for help that he could barely reply but he finally managed, “Shelter, please.”

After telling him, “Just a minute,” the woman walked off. When she returned after 10 minutes, she had three sheets of paper in her hands. They were printouts of the website of a support group for homeless and other people.

The lady handed him 5,000 yen ($46) and told him to “take a taxi.”

The man grabbed a cab and headed to the support group.

As the taxi ride cost him only 1,770 yen, he bought a boxed meal on his way. He had not eaten anything for a whole day so the grilled salmon was particularly delicious.

The following day, a staff member of the group took him to a counter at the local ward office. Later he was taken for a shower and coffee at an Internet cafe, where it was arranged for him to take "temporary refuge."

It was good timing.

There was heavy snowfall that day, with central parts of Tokyo receiving more than 20 centimeters.

“I could have frozen to death in the worst-case scenario,” the man said.

He is now wondering who the woman was. The staff of the supporting group said they had no idea.

The elderly man, who currently lives at an accommodation facility for those who have little money, said he sometimes remembers her face.

The three sheets of paper she gave him are carefully folded and kept in a bag.

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