I gave Peggy’s money to the girl with orange hair. She held up a bucket with a sign “cure cancer.” “Are you sure?” She was shocked at the three bills; clearly, generosity exceeded her expectations. I didn’t compound her confusion by telling her the truth; the folded paper was intended for a dog and a man who live in the street. Peggy is a black Whippet. Salt and pepper sprinkle her elegant snout. Her Dad, Keith, told me they lost their shelter when the fellow they lived with died. While my discernment of homeless economics is primitive, I suspect that put them in the street was more complicated.
Neither he nor Peggy was malnourished, but autumn in York advanced toward All Hallows’ and Whippets have only fur veneer. She shivered, and he held her, arms wrapped around his best girl giving her more blanket than he could spare. I dropped a few pounds in his hand. “Get you and Peggy something to eat.”. I saw them last where Stonegate meets Saint Helen’s Square. Peggy, wearing a coat like a fashion model, was mighty sporty. “I got her a coat,” Keith grinned. He has a good smile, and only the missing upper front tooth reminds me life is hard. I set aside some pound notes for them.
At twilight, Evensong sung, a solitary high C floated; releasing stacked overtones that whispered down the sound chamber of the Nave.
“Lighten our darkness,we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer – Collect for Protection)
I came out the South Transept down Stonegate searching. The Shops mostly closed, patrons gone, leave shop-keepers to turn the key and turn toward home. Medieval buildings, like eccentric neighbors, leaned out, beckoning across the cobbles, straining to learn the gossip of the day’s trade past. The people lying in the gate alone seem less so in anonymous dark than when ignored by the crowds. I stopped and inquired if they had seen a man and his dog. None had. Full Night fell, and I turned back.
Some would think it odd that a man in the street would have a mouth to feed not his own. They are ignorant. Remember poor ignored sore Lazarus? Was he not comforted in the gate by the dogs. A burden to some, an extravagance to most is all Keith has. He admitted as much when he stroked her elegant neck and whispered, “she’s eight almost an old lady.”
Determined to honor them, that last day I went round again looking but found no “Peg o’ My Heart“. Time ran out. I caught the train to the plane in Manchester. Reluctantly, I gave Peggy’s money to the girl with the orange hair.
York, United Kingdom
Great story John – hope that experience works its way into the pulpit..
Thank you. Four years ago, I saw one young man, obviously on drugs, in the streets of York. Today, everywhere there are street people, mostly men. The difference between York and Memphis is how many people have a dog.
Just to let you know that Keith and Peggy are fine, I see them all the time in York and they are well looked after by the kind people here. They get food and clothes and I think they now have a place to stay. I got Peg a new coat and one for Keith too. Like I say , think they have somewhere to sleep now indoors but they are still on street corners, maybe old habits die hard….
Thank you for your message! I think of them often and am glad they are well. Peace to you in this Holy Time. ‘Wish I were in York for Christmas.