As young children at school we sometimes played Simon Says. In this game, one child, designated Simon, gives commands to the other players who obey only when directives are preceded by the words "Simon Says."
For example, if Simon says: “Simon says jump,” then all players must jump. However, if Simon simply says: “Jump,” any player who jumps is out. The last player left standing becomes the new Simon.
This article is about a very interesting man named Simon whom I met while running my personal Vote For Love campaign during TT’s recent general election.
His sincere interest in the love campaign connected us. We chat often. With his sharp mind, intriguing life stories, natural wisdom and keen sense of humour, I see him as someone who, if given the opportunity, could be on a stage delivering inspirational speeches to large audiences...for a lot of money.
I mentioned Simon briefly at the end of an article some weeks ago, inspired by his humility and deep gratitude despite having what most would consider nothing. He is diabetic, homeless, uses a wheelchair, sleeps on a mattress in an unused building, and receives assistance from a few kind Samaritans. He receives no state assistance.
Simon says: “I don’t depend on humans. I depend on God. I speak to Him, then He speaks to you and tells you to come to me.”
Simon says his mother taught him and his siblings not to ask people for anything, so he has never asked me for anything, even when I have repeatedly asked, “Is there anything I may get you?”
Friends and I have provided him with a better wheelchair than the one he had, while we await another from Trinidad. However, he needs far more than a wheelchair. He needs to go to the doctor and needs a place to live, even if it is in a care home. Will his prayers be answered?
Simon says: “Them preacher who does shout and bray...I does feel to tell them, ‘God not deaf!’ You don’t need no microphone to speak to he. Just like how I speaking to you, I speak to God.”
“Do you feel he hears you?” I ask.
Simon says: “I dunno about anyone else, but he does hear my prayers. He may take he time, but when I need something he does send someone. Look how he keep sending you.”
“Do you like to read?” I ask.
Simon says: “If I coulda read I woulda conquer the world. My mother send me to school but all I did study in school was river...breaking biche to go river.”
He tells me that he once wrote a book of poetry about God.
“How can you write if you can’t read?”
Simon says: “I have my own writing that only I does understand. Long ago I take the poems by a friend with a typewriter. You know them old-time ones that does go ‘clackety clackety clack’ then ‘chaaak’ when you slide across that thing on top? I would read for she to type, because if I hadda give she that paper she woulda slap me across my face with it and ask what kind of thing I giving she.”
“Where are the poems now?” I ask.
Simon waves his hand, dismissing what is now in the distant past, like all else in his life when he was a master concrete sculptor, training people in the craft, or working as a newspaper delivery man in Scarborough.
In Simon I see dormant potential disguised as a man that many will pass by. I do not see a lazy man or beggar. His life situation has brought him to his knees, to a place of prayer. I believe he is ready and willing to make a better life for himself, given the right assistance.
There is only so much that friends and I, and other good Samaritans, can do as regular citizens. The State must intervene. However, my attempts to connect with such agents within the past month have been futile. Blame it on covid?
If life were the game of Simon Says and players were Tobago’s social service agencies, the first command would be: “Simon says, ‘Answer your phones, return calls, get him medical attention and take him off the streets, to a place where he can be cared for, rehabilitated, taught to read and empowered to live to his full potential.’”