Touching story this.
Meredith and I were at the La Gare in Castres some weeks back seeing our friends Anne and Ray from Maryland onto their midday train to Toulouse.
Double seat benches faced each other in the waiting area–perfect for two couples.
Problem was that on one of the benches sat a hooded figure hunched forward, asleep perhaps–his face hidden, anyway showing no signs of being about to move.
Not a threatening presence exactly but hooded figures give you pause.
It was a chilly early autumn day. He was wearing shorts and sandals and a plastic bag rested at his side.
When the train arrived, the four of us made our way onto the platform with the other waiting passengers.
Mr Hooded Figure followed amid the general animation, fearing perhaps being moved on unless he gave the impression he was traveling too.
We said our goodbyes to Ray and Anne and headed back towards the hall.
Meredith looked for Mr HF.
He was sitting on a bench on the platform still hooded looking straight ahead; unfocused, dazed, unengaged–certainly benign but lost and hungry, Meredith thought.
She made her first move.
For this story is about the moves that Meredith makes that others (like me) might not always leap up to make.
I said I’d get the car started–wary of being too eager a samaritan.
Meredith doesn’t recognize “wary”, be it dog or human, when she senses need.
She went up to him and asked if he’d like something to eat and drink.
He said he would and they made their way to the little news stand where the refrigerated shelf held sandwiches and salads.
He said he just wanted water but Meredith persuaded him to accept a small tabbouleh salad with the bottle of water.
She was also concerned about his state of mind and asked him if he wanted to see a doctor or go to the hospital.
He eventually agreed to go to the hospital.
My face when she turned up with him was a picture, she says.
She explained the situation and the young man got into the back of the car.
I said “Bonjour Monsieur”; took a deep breath and set off.
When we arrived at the hospital Meredith accompanied him into “Urgences”, the emergency reception.
I parked the car and hung out.
It took a while.
When she came out she said she’d left him waiting to see a doctor.
To her surprise he’d produced his identity card and carte vitale (health system card) from a deep pocket in his shorts, when asked by reception.
She later went back to the hospital with a bag of clothes but found that he had been discharged–to her dismay.
The receptionist said the doctor who’d dealt with him was busy with other patients and she’d have to wait.
After 45 minutes she reluctantly gave up and drove home.
She later found him on Facebook and left a message wishing him well and hoping he was alright.
Last week she received this email from him.
Bonjour, je suis la personne que vous avez aidée à la gare de Castres.Merci pour votre humanité et votre gentillesse.Je vous souhaite une bonne continuation.Thanks,Denis
She found this quote from Voltaire to include in her reply:
La vie est un naufrage, mais nous ne devons pas oublier de chanter dans les canots de sauvetage
“Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats!”