Chatted to a homeless guy today in Lewisham. Not intentionally, but he caught my eye and engaged me. He was asking for money and I declined: it's just my personal rule and I was busy.
Then he said something I thought I misheard. "I'm a copywriter/art director".
I looked at him again, this seemed ridiculous. "What agencies" I asked, a little sceptical. He looked 50 years of age, but could be my age ... Long hair, wild eyes, if you were to define what a homeless person looked like, he looked like it. I've walked past hundreds of similar, and so have you.
He then reeled off all the names of the agencies he had worked at ... DDB, AMV, Saatchi etc etc - all the ad shops you'd look up to in the 80s and 90s. He'd done the Watford Course - a well known inroad to advertising. Then told me a ton of stories about shoots he was on all round the world. I was having a laugh with him, enjoying the banter when he said "What's the point of a Clio award if you haven't got food to eat?". That ended me. What is the point?
I've had my low times in this business but always had friends and family to help pick me back up. Matthew Smith wasn't so lucky. I've not stopped thinking about him all day. He bade me farewell as I needed to be somewhere, and he was concerned about a fly he'd seem crawl in his shoe earlier.
I opened my wallet and gave him a tenner, which looked ridiculously small as I had at least 50 quid in cash on me. He tried to give me something for the money "so it was fair", then to ask how he would repay me. "This isn't charity Matt, this is the least I could do for a fellow ad man who needs a leg up". A tenner, two measly five pound notes. I've never seen a chap so thankful. I was embarrassed at how rich I suddenly felt.
I don't feel guilty, and I am trying to stop feeling helpless. What I do feel is THANKFUL to be in the place I am.
Many of you have been around me at times of great lowness, and many of you helped me in small or big ways probably more than you'll ever know. I'm not sure I say it often enough.