It is the start of the year, the season of long commutes through dark landscapes, of multiple layers and frosty ground. It is in this journey that we bump into each other quite a lot, making small talk as a way to start the day.

But today I want to talk to you about something else. Being human, human beings, compassion. And your response leaves me frozen in my seat. How must it feel to see life in black and white, so sharp, no nuances?

All of us are tiny grains of sand in life. Our luck, and our lives, could have easily been somebody else’s, in a Wheel of fortune kind of way.

Our parents. Our formative years. Our friendships. Our right or wrong choices about the sort of people we wanted to be. The accidents of life, shaping these choices time and again. Yes, determination counts, but on its own it cannot erode every other factor.

I do not know the story of every person who fell, but I recognise a depth of shadows that I am ill-equipped to respond, however badly I want to reach out.

That life, the life that has thrown you into what in other times may have been called the gutter, the sleeping bag and the half empty food containers, the dog for only companion – I cannot imagine that life, sitting in the comfort of our living room, slippers, hot drink and TV remote control in hand, a safe haven from the upheavals of the day.

And I want to tell this to the strangers I pass every day in Cornmarket Street: you matter. Your dreams needn’t die. You may have a talent, a beautiful singing voice or be good with plants, be a good listener or a better friend.

There is a light and a life at the other end of the tunnel, however you got here – beyond the substances, the loneliness, the aggression, the flashbacks, the anxiety, the cravings, the disturbing voices.

If you can make it through the tunnel, someone special will be waiting for you at the other side. And it will be you.

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