Ronan Berrigan, a pupil at a Dublin secondary school, writes of his experience with a homeless man called Eoin.
Remember, upon the conduct of each, depends the fate of all - Alexander The Great
Alexander The Great, Malcolm X, Charles Darwin, Gandhi, Bill Gates, Rosa Parks, Spartacus, Anne Frank, my Mother, and Èoin. Some of my heroes and quite a list it is. The list is quite recognisable and agreeable, apart from one name that is.
I am and have been a student at one of Dublin's inner city schools since starting in secondary school. Every Friday we go on what is called a sandwich and soup run for homeless people and I've been involved in it for the past number of years.
I first met Eoin four years ago. Eoin was always to be found at the Merchants Arch, beside the Halfpenny Bridge which spans the river Liffey. Through the weekly encounters Eoin and I came to know each other. He would always ask how my family was, how I was getting on at school and why I supported a crap team like Bohemians FC! It was not until my second year doing the soup run every Friday that I plucked up the courage to tell him I was crap at school, to which he said "it's ok to be crap and it's ok to hate it, just accept it and try not to over think things." Words of wisdom for your average teenager.
Eoin was known to look after people who had recently found themselves on the streets, that is to say what to wear and how to go "tapping". Tapping is the term for begging, however Eoin himself never did so. Eoin would also say that the hostels in the city were awful: "too much violence and they let people do whatever they like. So a lot of homeless people avoid them, and I don't blame them."
Every Friday I looked forward to seeing Eoin and telling him how hard my life in secondary school was. It wasn't until my second year doing the soup run that it occurred to me that I should ask Eoin where he came from and how he had come to be living on the streets. "It's no big deal" or "ah sure you know yourself how it goes" was how he responded. One rainy Friday - and trust me I mean heavy rain - he did start to reveal his story to me.
Eoin was originally from Belfast and as a young man he found himself caught up in the troubles. When I asked which side he was on, I got a typical selfless response "ah it doesn't matter now, and sure if I tell you I'd only be encouraging you to believe that my side was right." More words of wisdom for me to think over for the weekend. Eoin went to tell me about how he had spent 14 years in Long Kesh as a result of his politically motivated actions, about how he had spent some of that time on the blanket protest, about how he had good friends and how he had lost good friends.
So why does Eoin's name belong with such renowned figures? Eoin never felt sorry for himself, never let anger take him away and was able to let go of the past. That's why.
I've been on summer holidays for the last few weeks so there has not been any soup runs done by me at least. However in my defence I have gone into the city for the last four Friday's and Eoin was nowhere to be seen. What I am coming to is that I am frightened that Eoin might have passed away on the streets.
If you find yourself down by the Halfpenny Bridge keep an eye out for Eoin. And if the worst has happened then know that a good man lived there and that he inspired the lives of those around him.