American Muslim filmmaker, Samah Safi Bayazid shared this wonderful story on her facebook page on the 8th of May.
The best story that happened to me since the beginning of this year.✨
I was visiting London last month and after finishing a work related event, I went out with my friends to a park near the hotel. The park was beautiful and its trees were filled with beautiful blossoms and roses so we decided to take some photos.
As I stood underneath a cherry blossom tree while my friend Rawan was photographing me, an older man approached us and started speaking to us with a heavy Scottish accent saying “I have a suggestion to enhance the photo, I will shake the tree while your friend takes your photo” and what do you know, the blossoms started falling down just like rain and we ended up with a magical photo (you’ll find it in comments). We thanked him than we got preoccupied with taking more group photos.
I spoke with my friend Selma about the man and how he gave us a clever idea. It caught Selma’s attention that he could be homeless and so I told her that he didn’t mention any help and didn’t have a sign or a place for donations. But regardless, we decided to go back to him to sincerely thank him one more time.
He was sitting peacefully on bench near the entrance of the park. We greeted him and asked his permission to sit and chat with him.
While speaking to him, he informed us of his name; Andrew and that he’s Scottish and that despite the beauty of this park, nothing compares to the beautiful mountains in Scotland. He didn’t mention that he was homeless nor ask for help. So we honestly asked him if he had a home or if he lived here (the park).
With shyness and humility he responded that he he was homeless and lived in the park. We asked if there were homeless shelters in the area and he said there is one nearby but it costs 30 euros per night and included a dinner meal and a bed to sleep in. It’s like a hotel but he had to pay every night. He then changed the subject saying that he’s ok and knows how to take care of himself. I really liked his determination.
I had an idea! I told him that “you’re a talented person and your suggestion to our photo was amazing. Imagine if you had an instant camera and you photographed people with it and at the same time you earned money from doing so you have enough for food, even if it were one meal!”
I was speaking to him with excitement but didn’t see the same energy from him; maybe it’s due to how many people approach to help him but don’t take much action. He said that it was a great idea but didn’t have money to buy a camera. So I told him that I would buy it for him. I promised him that I would look into it and when I find one that’s reasonably priced, I will return to him with a camera in my hand. He thanked me (in disbelief) and said that he was at this park everyday.
Selma and I walked the streets and searched for stores that sold cameras. We asked store owners in the streets to help direct us to a nearby store. We found one and found a camera that had good quality and reasonably priced. I bought it right away and was full of excitement! Selma bought an extra film and batteries and we asked the owner to teach us how to use it and to write down his number and address on a piece of paper.
We then went to a craft store and bought a poster board, markers and a clear plastic cover for the board (protect it from rain) and we wrote the following in the board:
“Do you want an instant photo?
I’m a homeless photographer, Support me ☺️
We returned to the park very excited to surprise him and bring happiness to his heart but we couldn’t find him. We searched the entire park. A few of my friends; Rawan and Franka went to the airport to catch their flight while Selma and Maryem went back to their hotel to checkout and come meet me when they are done. As for me, I stayed sitting on the bench waiting for Andrew for hours while holding the sign.
Then Maryem and Selma entered the park along with Andrew. They found him waking around looking for something he had lost. I greeted him and said: “I got you a gift and fulfilled my promise” I took out the camera from behind my back and he was shocked and started laughing and tearing. He held it in disbelief and read the sign we made and became extremely happy!
Selma taught him how to use it and we gave him the paper that had the store info near the park and we explained to him that if he ran out of film or batteries, he could buy them from the same store. We also mentioned that one film can take up to 20 photos and it costs 20 Pounds so if he were to take two photos, he’s able to buy himself a meal everyday and is able to buy a new film every few days. And we hoped he would take a lot of photos.
Meriem told him that we will be his first customers. She gave him 5 euros and we asked him to take our photo. He photographed us and it was beautiful! We left it with him so he remembers us and Meryem wrote on the back of it “a gift from your Muslim friends” while we were in the park, Andrew photographed two other strangers and I was so happy with his customers; probably more than he was.
While saying goodbye to him, I finally told him that we have a saying in Arabic that says: “don’t give me a fish, but give me a fishing rod and teach me how to fish” and this is exactly what we have done with you. This camera will not change your life, dear Andrew; but it could be the beginning and help you get your daily needs without having to rely on anyone. He told us with full confidence that “next time, when you all visit London, I will buy you coffee and that’s my promise to you all”
His last sentence touched my heart. The sparkle that I saw in his eyes… the sparkle of “I am able to do something” was the most beautiful thing that has happened to me since the beginning of the year.
I will end this story with 3 important things:
I asked Andrew for his permission to take his photo and share it as a success story to inspire others and he agreed and was very happy about that.
Andrew is present daily at Holland Park in London (Olympia District). He’s usually sitting on the bench in the entrance. If you’re ever in the area, I encourage you to visit him and support him by having him photograph you and sharing your photo by using the hashtag below.
The purpose of sharing this post is to ask all of you to help someone around you that is in need with something simple and in a genuine and creative way. You don’t have to be an organization or rich to help someone and your help doesn’t necessarily have to be a drastic help that would change someone’s life around but a simple aide or help is more than enough and it’s the least we can all do.
Finally, we created a hashtag on the sign and Andrew was the one that suggested it. It resonated with his Scottish roots. And we asked him to tell everyone he photographed to share their photo using the hashtag #AndrewBraveHeart on Instagram.
Yesterday as I was searching for it, I found a few people who posted their photos and he’s taking photos until now and that’s the best ending to this story/post!.
My sincere love and peace to this world,??❤️
Two days after the post which gained huge publicity, Mrs. Bayazid mentioned that the story reached one of the charity organizations that care about homeless people and they promised to provide home and healthcare for Andrew.