From living a normal life in good health to ending up injured and homeless living on the streets, a man known as A-chien (阿健) has found a new life in Greater Kaohsiung’s Baosheng Borough (寶盛里), the residents of which A-chien said were instrumental to his “rebirth.”
A-chien said he started saving money when he was 24 years old and working on a fishing ship. He used the money to start his own business dealing in refrigerators and air-conditioners a year later.
“I ran the business for many years before I was forced to close,” he said, adding that to try to make ends meet he did all sorts of part-time jobs, from being a stevedore at the docks to working as a hired hand on a farm in the mountains of Jhudong Township (竹東).
“When I was working in Jhudong planting and tending cabbages, I suffered an injury,” he said, saying that he had opted to work at night because the summer heat was unbearable during the day.
He misjudged his step one night and fell down a steep hill before being found by a friend and taken to hospital. His life was saved by emergency surgery, but damage to a spinal nerve left him unable to stand up straight and he experiences difficulty standing for long periods.
With no money for additional surgery and no job, A-chien said he was forced to live on the streets, adding that people often treated him badly.
However, everything changed one night when he was sleeping on a bench in a Baosheng Borough park two years ago.
A-chien said he was sleeping on the bench wrapped in a parka on a cold, rainy night when residents noticed him and notified Borough Warden Shih Shu-chen (石淑貞), concerned that a stranger in the borough might pose a safety risk.
Shih went to the park to give A-chien a set of her husband’s clothes to wear and NT$100 to buy dinner with. A-chien said that later that night Shih also gave him a blanket to keep warm.
“I was very touched that she called me ‘Mr’ and treated me with respect,” A-chien said, adding that he had not thought that anyone would care about him.
Shih’s actions chipped away at the mental barrier A-chien had built around himself and he was able to talk with her about his past experiences.
After talking with him over several days, Shih said she felt that A-chien was not a bad person and sought to reassure local residents, even attempting to persuade them that A-chien could act as the borough’s security guard to fend off potential criminals.
Many residents also changed their attitude toward him, A-chien said, adding that they often invited him into their homes to eat as well as offering him a place to stay for the night.
A-chien said he was very moved by these acts of kindness and has volunteered to stay in the area and become a member of the borough’s neighborhood watch.
Although he also volunteered to help with recycling at an organization run by the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, A-chien said that after finding out that he was not able to meet the physical demands of the work he decided to help the borough keep its streets clean instead.