For once I was not led by the ingrained voice of my mother, I was led by my own.
Walking down the busy street into town in a morning I regularly see the same homeless guy. He always looks clean enough and rarely says anything. Every time I walk into town I wish I had something I could give to him, every time I’m walking back with food shopping or something he’s gone.
Today was different, it was nearly 5pm and he was still there wrapped in a duvet that couldn’t be doing much at all to keep him sheltered from the pouring rain that has been drenching everyone through today.
My mother always said never to give them money, they’d just use it for drugs she’d say. But then I considered the term them. The people, just like ourselves that maybe made a bad mistake or worse took a risk that landed them without a roof in the middle of a storm.
I’d checked the change in my pocket, thinking I’d buy some fruit with it on my way to the bus stop. £3.20 wasn’t much but I decided fruit was no longer what it was for. He said ‘Thank you have a lovely day’ looking generally surprised when I leaned down and said ”excuse me, it’s not much but it should get you a coffee’ and handed him the money. What a hopeless thing to say afterwards I thought, I don’t know what he will spend it on but I don’t think my first priority would be coffee. Heck, in this weather I don’t think I’d care if my mother was right and he did spend it on alcohol or worse. It’s abysmal weather; he doesn’t get to look forward to coming home putting on his dressing gown or finishing up with a year of education. The thought nearly made my slightly emotional self tear up. I wandered through Tesco wondering what that money could really accomplish above my expensive habit of Costa Coffee and decided that today my entire meal would cost no more.
The important thing went beyond the money, or what he’d spend it on, or my decision to empty my pocket in the first place. The important thing here is that I stopped for a moment to consider that guy was a human being the same as I, and the lady in her high heels fresh from the office and the man in the polished suit with his Bluetooth earpiece.
We live in a society where every step we take we are surrounded by wealth and through ignorance or shame or any number of things we don’t want to recognize the people at the bottom of the food chain.
It’s easy to say they made their bed and they have to lie in it, but no-one should have to sit in a damp duvet in the pouring rain.
Even if you don’t have money, if you walk past a homeless person regularly or even occasionally at least smile or say something, anything.
Remember even though in modern countries where houses are built everyday and a person still cannot get a job without a fixed address there shouldn’t be people sleeping on the street, we can still respect that they are human beings.
My optimism of the day is not how fortunate I am. I don’t consider I did something good and I didn’t do it to make myself feel better. My optimism is that I did it. And even if it doesn’t do much I acknowledged that he is a human being just as much as I’m trying to be human.
We can wander around individually ignoring that sometimes people need a little help or just something to brighten their day, or we can do whatever we can about it. It’s so easy to keep our heads down, not just with homeless people but with people who need help in public or even when our friends are going through something that might not be big to you but is like a part of their world collapsing to them.
It’s about recognizing that we’re all kind of the same and we are all able to do something about it.
Look up because otherwise you’ll never see the sunshine on a day like today, see what’s around you and you might make a difference.