This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a chance encounter with a homeless person turn into an unlikely story of love. We recently shared a post written by a former heroin addict about how falling in love with her now-husband changed her life and saved her from a jail, the streets, and probably even death. The day he met her, he never would have guessed that he would form such a life-changing relationship with her.
Then there was the story of the homeless man who showed kindness to a lost young couple. He never thought they would take him into their home, and he certainly never thought he’d become close friends with their families!
Now we’re hearing another unexpected love story, this one is of a romance between a shop-owner and the man she caught rifling through her trash one day, 40 years ago!
Joan Neininger and Ken Selway are, today, ages 88 and 89 respectively. The two have known one another for 40 years… and they plan to wed soon!
But there’s is an unlikely love story. The first time Joan and Ken met, Joan was married to a man named Norman. She and Norman owned a bookshop. The first time Joan spotted Ken, he was digging through the trash outside their shop. Joan explained that day:
When I saw him ferreting through the bins outside a fish and chip shop near my bookshop, I never thought for a minute it would end like this. But although he was living on the streets, I knew straight away that Ken was a lovely man with a beautiful soul. The man haunted me like a spectre. The first time I saw him searching for food in a rubbish bin, it silently broke my heart.
After reading a book called Down and Out in Britain by Jeremy Standford, which addresses issues of homelessness, Joan’s heart was filled with compassion for Ken. Ken wouldn’t accept any money, but she began regularly leaving sandwiches for Ken.
Eventually, Joan was able to convince her husband, Norman, to take Ken to dinner. The three immediately became close friends, and Joan and Norman invited Ken to live with them.
Even though Joan and Ken are now getting married, at the time, there was never a thought of romance between them. “There was no sexual jealousy, it was fine and Ken and Norman were like brothers,” she said. “It was like a little paradise. Just Ken, Norman and me.”
As Joan got to know Ken better, she became more and more empathetic to his plight and the plight of other homeless individuals. Ken has schizophrenia, and she began to understand how difficult it was for people with mental illness.
“People with schizophrenia are imprisoned by the voices,” said Joan. “I did not know anything about it but I soon learned.”
In fact, Joan didn’t just learn. She became an outspoken advocate for mental health, campaigning for Ken and people like him. She even published a book about him called Portrait of Ken.
After Norman passed away, Ken developed health problems and was moved into an assisted living facility. Joan followed him shortly thereafter.
Now, 40 years after she first began leaving sandwiches for him by a trash can, Joan and Ken are getting married.
“When I met Joan, I was sleeping rough and wanted to kill myself,” Ken recalls. “I probably would not be here now if it wasn’t for her leaving those sandwiches in the bin. She’s a really kind person.”
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