Jack meets a hard luck case in the street

Jack was, by now, feeling pretty good about things. He'd managed to get himself and his family out of a real mess, and was living on his own terms. True, they didn't have the house any more, but the mortgage would have been impossible, and they were lucky they didn't lose out on the big drop in house prices. If they'd sold six months later they would have been ,000 in the red.

He was on his way to see a client when he happened to see someone he'd used to work with in his old section. This was Harry, one of the senior accountants, a nice older guy who'd shown Jack the ropes when he was starting out.

Harry, to put it mildly, obviously wasn't doing too well. He looked very tired, and his clothes were stained. Jack remembered when Harry had bought the old business suit, at least ten years ago. It was a nice suit, then. He sat Harry down in a restaurant, stared down the waitress, who was looking a bit sniffy at Harry, and went looking for information.

Harry had got the boot soon after Jack. He'd also lost his house, as well as his marriage and his savings in a messy divorce. He'd had pneumonia, asthma, a fallen arch, and a pretty nasty drop in living standards, in that year or so. What he hadn't had, and couldn't get, was work.

Harry was about 40, and he looked 140 at least. His hair was very grey, which had barely been noticeable when he was working. A series of stories, including one about eating muesli for a month, came out. Harry was now living in a boarding house, it was cold, and it was pretty unhygienic.

Jack, although he wouldn't have admitted it, was a pretty nice guy. He was appalled. Harry had been one of the friendly people in a very overworked office, never edgy, never nasty. He'd also helped Jack, more often than Jack knew, but Jack remembered quite a few incidents where Harry had picked up the pieces for him and others in the section.

He rang Sue, explained the situation, and they figured out a way to do something for Harry. They were getting so much work lately that Jack needed to schedule everything. They actually needed some help, and as Jack kept unnecessarily suggesting, Harry was very good at his job. Sue actually remembered Harry, and had to remind him that she did.

They agreed. Harry could take up the extra work, and start filling in the gap in his employment record which was beginning to look like the Grand Canyon. Sue was very much in favor, because Jack was overworking, in her opinion. He never seemed to stop.

Jack explained the idea to Harry, who, after an expression passed across his face that Jack didn't quite understand, accepted the offer. It worked brilliantly, too. It worked so well that Jack, quite unintentionally, found himself a way of doing much bigger jobs. Harry's very wide range of experience covered a lot of areas Jack had only ever heard of in his whole working life. Harry taught him a lot about budgets and cost projections which he might never have learned otherwise.

Jack eventually found out what that expression on Harry's face had been about. Harry was shocked, not by Jack's offer, but by himself. He hadn't quite believed anyone would ever try and do anything for him. Harry was the sort of person you occasionally meet who does a lot for others, but rarely gets much in return.

There are a lot of Harrys in this world. If you meet one, try and help.