I was downtown taking photographs of the AJAX Mine demonstration. I had been hoping to capture some great shots of the group protesting, but the mood at the scene was…limp to say the least.
“Hey Mike,” said the By-law officer, “keeping out of trouble?”
“Always do,” he responded.
Mike was pushing a red shopping cart with a sign on the front that read:
Wisdom is not realizing the preciousness of something when it is gone.
Wisdom is recognizing the preciousness of what we have.
God Bless You.
He walked away as I continued to snap pictures of the protest.
Later on our paths crossed again.
“Pardon me, Mike is it?” I asked.
We stood at the corner of third and Victoria for a moment and I asked him if I could walk with him for a while. He agreed and we walked up third to Seymour Street and talked about the day.
Mike is a person without permanent housing in Kamloops, previously he lived in Winnipeg and Toronto, where he arrived nearly 40 years ago after leaving Ireland.
“I got myself into a bit of trouble back home, ya know? So I thought I’d come here and make a fresh start.”
Arriving in Toronto he said that he noticed how clean the city was for being so large.
“I loved Young Street.”
He spent a few years in Winnipeg but found the Winters to be far too cold for his lifestyle and ended up in Kamloops eight or nine years ago.
“It’s getting warm again! I love the weather here,” he said.
On the corner of third and Seymour a man approached us and asked us for directions. Without hesitating, Mike gave the gentleman directions. He knew exactly where the man wanted to travel to, somewhere in lower Sahali.
As we walked down Seymour towards 2nd ave Mike and I talked about the animosity between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, the potato famine and where he stays.
“I don’t stay at the Leland House, they can enter your room anytime they want, it’s like that hotel up on the hill there,” referring to KRCC.
He said that friends will sometimes let him stay with them when it gets too cold but he stays outside most of the time.
“I don’t really like telling people where I stay, I don’t want people hanging around too much.”
He did tell me where he was staying these days and it seemed like a good area.
“Do you feel safe here?” I asked.
“It’s a nice city, full of kind and compassionate people.”
He told me how he didn’t always like going to the mission, some of the people that also go there are too aggressive for him.
“Something about those guys, they always want to mark their territory or something.”
He talked to me about his philosophy of time. “We’ll never have yesterday again, tomorrow never really comes, people need to live each day. Don’t look back and don’t think too much about the future.”
We walked around the block together and ended up where we started.
I thanked him for allowing me to walk with him and gave him a giftcard for Cooper’s foods. I told him I would give him better compensation next time I saw him around downtown.
“Oh, don’t worry about that Joey, just chatting with you was generous enough.”
Mike O was one of the kindest men I’ve ever met. If anyone was being generous, it was him.