Good Henry of Pembrokeshire

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Mini Man, Henry, since he died at the weekend. So many stories going around about him, and why he chose to live like he did.

Everyone has their reasons for the choices that they make. I wonder though, could more have been done to help him? How many more Mini Mans are there out there? There’s someone with a pitched-up tent this week at the council offices. They have nowhere else to go. There are plenty of people in that position, all over the country, with literally, nowhere to go, for whatever reason.

The stories surrounding Henry are tragic. But I’ve also heard a lot of stories about people trying to help him over the years, which goes some way to take a little off the edge of the sadness felt at his death. There have been many outpourings for him since the weekend, and all words I’ve seen written or heard spoken have been good words.

People have an understanding of his plight, a respect for his choices, and way of life, no matter how alien it was to them. I heard stories about 12 Christmas dinners lined up, brought for him by neighbours, but that he never touched any of them. I’m not sure if that part of the story is an embellishment, designed to amplify his attitude to society and offers of help. I’m not sure how much help he accepted, and I don’t know his reasons for doing so or for not. Perhaps he felt that he didn’t want to be seen as a charity, and didn’t want people to feel sorry for him. It was impossible to not feel sorry for him though, passing his place. But he was clear about needing to keep his dignity intact.

I’ve never seen the county so united on something, and it’s really nice to see. Everyone is showing kindness, compassion, things that have been missing a little from the county of late. There’s a unity that Henry has brought, that nothing else has been able to bring. His death has united everyone in a common humanity, where people are thinking of someone else, of their life, of their situation, and of their tragedy. These are all attributes that we have, as humans. It’s good to remember that. It’s taken the death of Henry the mini man to bring the county together. What a hero he is. If only he knew.

I can’t help wondering what would have happened to him had he been living up here though, I’ll be honest. My neighbours would have reported him, and smoked him out. They wouldn’t have brought blankets and kindness and Christmas dinner. They’d have complained that he was spoiling their view. And now, on his death, just like they celebrated making me homeless by getting me evicted from my own land, they would be chinking their glasses at his passing, glad that they no longer had to tolerate his dirty face or his old bicycle. They would celebrate, and write mean things on facebook about how they saw him as weak and terrible because life had treated him unkindly. They’d see nothing good within him. They wouldn’t cry for him like the little girl who saw Henry put his washing out in the rain and wondered how he could get dry. Instead of bringing him warm things and making sure he was ok, they’d be stripping everything he had from him, and they wouldn’t have been satisfied until he froze to death and his heart gave out and they could finally get rid of his mess that brought down their property prices. They would no longer have to share space with an undesirable. They wouldn’t have to look at him and wonder why he was there. They would no longer have to care.

Maybe the outpourings for Henry are about guilt. In that we all knew we probably could have done more. But we didn’t. The people that were kind to him should be proud of themselves. They’ve displayed a humanity that seems so rare in the modern world. A world where selfish needs overtake compassion and kindness. Where no one wants to understand. If Henry had been a refugee, living there, like he was, and then he had died, what would have been the reaction?

There are many lessons we can learn from Henry. He is the best teacher Pembs has ever had. Respect him. Remember him. There, but for the grace of God….


Published by Tess Delaney

I mostly only come out at night... mostly....

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