The biggest heart in Croydon

WayneI met an amazing man called Greg today.

He told me of the day 10 years ago that he’d been held up at gun point in his pizza store and lost his will to interact with his customers. He was so disappointed that this young man was so lost that he’d turned to crime and felt he’d lost the love, trust and faith he had in others.

Had this young man even thought about the affect his act of violence would have on Greg or his business? Did he realize how it would change Greg’s life?

Greg then went on to tell me about Wayne and Jasmine and how they’d changed his life…

‘One day Wayne wandered into Greg’s pizza shop and asked for a little money. Greg being Greg, gave him a few dollars.

The very next day Wayne once again turned up asking for money.

This troubled Greg as he realized Wayne was going to make it a habit. So he asked Wayne what the money was for? Greg will never forget Wayne’s reply… ‘just food mate, just for food.’

Greg knew at that moment Wayne was sincere. He was hungry, he was dirty and had a number of open sores that oozed out of his head. It looked like Wayne had been in a fight.

But Greg was soon to learn that Wayne was no fighter and those sores were the result of constantly falling over and bumping into things as Wayne was 80% blind and simply needed treatment.

Greg swiftly swung into action and invited Wayne to take a seat. He asked him to choose a large pizza off the menu as well as a drink from the fridge.

Wayne quickly stated he had no money, but Greg invited him to be his guest. It was on the house, no charge!! Wayne certainly was not used to this kind of treatment and looked a little overwhelmed.

Greg decided Wayne was to be treated as a special guest and typically treats his customers with the same respect.

Wayne eagerly ordered a large pizza with the lot and a can of coke. With a renewed but shaky dignity, he sat silently waiting to be served. This was an overwhelming personal experience for Wayne, as he was not used to this kind of treatment.

Little did Greg know that this was the beginning of a challenging but rewarding friendship.

Ten minutes later he bounced out of the kitchen and placed Wayne’s large pizza with the lot in front of him. Then from a little distance he watched as Wayne simply sat staring at the pizza.

A few minutes went by and he asked Wayne, ‘Hey is everything OK, mate?’ Wayne slowly looked up quite emotional and replied, ‘Nah, it’s all cool mate, just staring at all this pizza.’

For a few moments Wayne sat completely overwhelmed by Greg’s generosity, but soon enough he got stuck into that pizza and downed his coke.

Then something completely unexpected happened that Greg will never forget. While he was in the back of the kitchen, he heard the tingling of coins coming from the tip jar.

His first thought was, Wayne was stealing his tips. He ran round to the front counter and to his amazement, there was Wayne, emptying his entire purse, all the coins he had into the tip jar.

To Greg this was to be a defining moment in his life experience. Here was one of the poorest of the poor in Croydon, giving all he had into his tip jar. It was only a few small coins, but it was everything that Wayne had.

Wow, what an emotional moment? Greg decided right then that whenever Wayne was hungry or thirsty, he was welcome to have whatever he wanted free of charge and that everyone in Croydon needs to hear this local Croydon story.

From that day onward, Wayne showed up virtually everyday.Yes and of course Wayne did expect to have a pizza and coke, and it was always available.

This journey was quite a challenge for Greg. The Center Management security had often removed Wayne from the center, and Greg was getting an earful from other disgruntled shop owners as they did not want Wayne hanging round. However, Greg had big plans for Wayne.

Over the next 12 months Greg gave Wayne some odd jobs. He collected trollies, though he was slow, he always tried his best.

Over a year later, Greg continues to support Wayne with food and a little money, but only on the condition that “he cleaned himself up and stopped begging in the center.”‘

Wayne became a different, more resourceful man. He cleaned up his appearance, shaved and lived in a homeless shelter.

Wayne sadly passed away in hospital but before he died, he became the very first volunteer in Greg’s mission to change the heart of Croydon. Wayne had started selling little key chain hearts that were given to him by Greg to raise funds to support a young Autistic girl named Jasmine and collect a little for himself.

He got to keep half of whatever donations he received and the remaining half was donated to support an 11 year old Autistic girl named Jasmine, who’s idea it was to encourage homeless people to stop begging and to give out gift hearts to collect donations.

Jasmine began this idea at 4 years of age and believes our world needs more heart.

Greg believes it’s his duty to support those in greater need and today support another homeless man named Don who also sells the hearts to raise money for himself and Jasmine.

I’d sat and listed to Greg’s story. I’d cried and was now in awe of this beautiful soul who’d told me how Wayne had the biggest heart in Croydon, but I can’t help thinking that that person is really Greg.

I hugged him as I left and he looked me in the eyes and said, “Giving Is Living”.  – Lis 

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