In Michael Mann's 2004 film Collateral, there's a scene where, to justify the disdain he feels for Los Angeles, Tom Cruise's hitman character tells the chill tale of a man who died on a city train: "Six hours he's riding the subway before anybody notices his corpse doing laps around LA; people on and off, sitting next to him. Nobody notices." One must presume this kind of thing happens more often than we would like to think. However, this week's story about the townspeople of Totnes in Devon banding together to give a decent funeral to a homeless man who had died on their streets delivers some warmth, even if there is no getting away from the sadness of the episode.
Michael Gething, 42, perished in an alleyway, apparently from hypothermia. Totnes has no homeless shelter and, although Mr Gething had been offered accommodation 13 miles away in Dartmouth, he preferred to stay where he was.
But the recent cold weather proved too much for him. Thankfully, his anonymity in life dissipated after death and the town clubbed together to provide the funeral he deserved, with one local man sleeping rough for 48 hours to help raise the necessary funds. Mr Gething's coffin was then carried through the town, local people taking turns to shoulder the burden.
But to encourage a lesson to be drawn from any of this would be to skirt the realms of sermonising, so all I do is present the story. Your reaction is your own business.
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