The ability of Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma (founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba) to make headlines around the world is no longer news. Just as the world extols his latest act of kindness – a USD20 million donation to the University of Newcastle as a tribute to his Australian “father” and mentor – it brought to mind a story even closer to home, a story I have been meaning to share.
Almost a month ago today, as Sydney woke up to a toasty mid-summer morning brimming with hopes of a new year, I woke up to the chill of my own consciousness. A man known locally as Sydney’s Shoeshine Brian has died in his sleep. In the grand of scheme of things, the event itself was uneventful (albeit tragic). Sydney Morning Herald dedicated its front page, but its ripple effect was confined to those who remembered him, as the article was soon buried by other worldly news of the day. News of his passing nonetheless sent shockwaves through me, for reasons or sentiments which were not immediately obvious, even to myself that day.