Sleeping rough and an act of kindness

YourLifeChoices’ 90-year-old columnist Peter Leith is on a mission to record key memories of experiences that resonated strongly. This interaction is no doubt repeated through the world every day, though perhaps not with this ending.


My shift, as ‘station host’ at inner suburban Fairfield Station, started at 6am. Rocking up at 5.20am one Melbourne winter morning, I saw a long, canvas-wrapped bundle on the bench outside the small wooden office building. “Someone sleeping rough,” I thought.

Even before I ‘clocked on’ – on the phone to Heidelberg Station – I switched on the electric jug. By the time I had finished talking to Heidelberg and opened the toilets, the jug was boiling. I made a mug of black instant coffee with two spoons of sugar.

Taking it with me, I shook what I thought might be the shoulder of the canvas-wrapped bundle and said, “Wakey, wakey, coffee time.”

To my surprise, a brown kelpie popped his head out of the other end of the bundle. I said, “Good morning” to it and again shook the shoulder end. A bearded face, topped by a Collingwood beanie, popped out.

Wishing him a good morning, I apologised for the fact that there was no milk, told him the toilets were open and asked him to please pack up his bedding before the first passengers started to arrive.

While he was using the toilet and wash basin, I found a couple of stale biscuits and gave them to the dog.

I never saw either of them again.

How would you have responded? Do you have fond memories of a community hall? Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to [email protected] and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.

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Written by Peter Leith


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