The Big Issue seller of Liverpool Street Station

When I lived in London I used to walk an hour to get to work. I’d walk past I don’t know how many thousands of people on my way, and rarely connected with any of them.

There was one man however, who stood opposite Liverpool Street Station in London who sold the Big Issue every day. Every morning, as rush hour people-traffic moved past him he would tirelessly repeat the following:

‘Good morning, good morning, how are you, good morning.’ Bowing with each phrase.

I loved that man. I’d make sure I greeted him back with a smile or a hello, and sometimes a purchase of a magazine I never really read. He exuded joy, even though by City of London standards he was materialistically probably the poorest person working in the borough. For me he stood as a reminder of how resourceful and persistent humans can be. The vast majority of those walking past didn’t stop, didn’t acknowledge him, and yet he continued to work.

I used to wonder how he managed to show up in the same peaceful, open, connecting way day after day. What part of himself did he access that allowed him to show continued compassion as so many rushed past?

When I think about myself back then I remember anxiety about the work ahead, a personal pep talk of encouragement to just ‘get through the day’ and then everything would be ok. I’m sure I wasn’t alone with such thoughts. I feel the concept of just ‘getting through things’ is endemic in our society; the message that nirvana lies on the other side of slogging your guts out in the workplace for fifty years is perpetuated through advertising, government policies, the news…

I no longer buy it. I don’t think the Big Issue seller buys it either. I have a feeling he connects with the way he feels from moment to moment, taking note of the small nuances of change that occur within him as he moves through his day. The changes that we so often ignore because we’re too busy thinking about all the things we need to get done before we can retire in peace.

But life is about those tiny changes we feel, the glimmers of emotion that sometimes flash through us, and sometimes linger a bit longer. Life is about connecting with those around us, reaching out to each other to create, share moments of joy, support each other in times of fear.

Life isn’t a treadmill to walk through to get to the other side, it’s a kaleidoscope of experiences, each moment deserving of our attention.

Life is beautiful.

  • Dieter Hachenberg
    Posted at 16:03h, 15 January

    Hannah, I love your post – as one who commuted into London for many years I can easily identify with the experience you describe. Life isn’t about getting through the day so we can enjoy ourselves and relax that evening, or getting through the week so we can kick back at the weekend, or getting through the winter so we can enjoy the summer, or getting through the year so we can have that holiday, or getting through your job until you get your next promotion, or getting through your career until you can enjoy your retirement. As you so beautifully pointed out there are moments to be experienced for what they are as they are all we have. And we all have choice – to either fully allow ourselves to experience those moments or to rush through them. But what do we miss by rushing on?

  • Soul Sayed
    Posted at 09:37h, 15 June

    Hi Hannah,

    I’m currently on a training course in Middlesex street, London.

    I walk out of Liverpool Street station everyday and see the exact same man. He stands on the corner and has an Eastern European accent.

    He has been on that corner for at least 12 months as it was around this time last year I first saw him on my previous training course.

    I say good morning back to him.
    he must be a very positive person to say good morning and have a nice day to everyone that walks past. it makes me see that there kind people who expect nothing in return but just want to wish you a lovely day.

    I find it sad how many people ignore and walk past without being polite or even smiling back.

    I stumbled accross your post as I googled ” man who stand liverpool street good morning have a nice day”

    I’m glad I saw it!


  • Jake
    Posted at 13:35h, 06 March

    I also reminder the same man too.

    I remember going to a training course just of middlesex street and the gentleman selling the big issue said’ Good morning’ to anyone and everyone walking past him. 10months later, I was in the liverpool street area and the same person greeting anyone with a smile (good morning).

    This shows persistence of making someone happy, I really hope the Gentlemen finds something who will indeed replicate warmth and happiness he gives to other.

  • Julia
    Posted at 07:32h, 25 April

    Hi Hannah, I work here on Bishopsgate and I can hear him from my office, never in my life I have seen such persistency, he is here everyday and continuously, with no break whatsoever, wishing people “Good morning! Have a good day! Good morning! Have a good day!”. He does sound like a broken record if you ask me, almost like a machine but it is quite funny at times I must admit.

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