The Old Man
Sarah V. and Claude K. Dubois
Softly spoken and compassionate, this little book has amazing power to move.
In the city, morning has come; it’s time for everyone to begin the day. The children set off for school and beneath a blanket, an oldish man, a rough sleeper stirs, slowly and reluctantly. Anonymous, he’s freezing cold, in need of coffee and very hungry. He walks and as he does so his hunger increases.
As he grows wearier, he slows and stops for a rest and watches the passers by; memories of his past drift into his mind until he’s suddenly awoken and told to move on.
Belly rumbling, he heads for the shelter in the hope of sustenance but when his turn comes he cannot even recall his name so leaves – empty.
A bus affords a brief shelter from the wet and cold but his sleep is interrupted by unkind words from which he flees as soon as possible.
His loneliness is pervasive as he wanders on and through a park until towards the end of the day, when he’s wrapped himself in his blanket once more, a little girl approaches him smiling; she offers him her sandwich
and likening him to a teddy bear, walks on. No sandwich has ever tasted so good.
Fuelled by her kindness the man heads back to the shelter once again. When asked his name this time, “Teddy” comes his response.
A wonderful demonstration of how it often takes a young child to take notice, to see beyond the surface, to show empathy, reach out and make that vital connection.
Claude Dubois’ soft watercolour pencil sketches with their loose imagery underline the mood and the chill of this drifting tale of our times. Entirely unsentimental yet enormously heart-warming, this is a book that needs to be shared and discussed everywhere, not least by policy makers in government who have, dare I say, been instrumental in creating the circumstances like those of this homeless man.