Yesterday I was walking through town, minding my own business and a homeless guy said “can you spare some change please?” I hesitated and considered just saying “sorry but no” like I often do but he looked at me and smiled.
I shake my purse and grab some silver coins, it’s not a lot but he genuinely seemed happy. I say “sorry it’s not much lovely” and he said something like “it all helps, and at least you didn’t ignore me.” It was a bit chilly, and I’m honestly nervous about giving homeless or other street people money as one local man always lies, so I say to the young chap on the floor “fancy a cuppa?” His face! “Yes please, a coffee with 4 sugars miss.”
I walked off to my prefered take away (not the big brands that tax dodge) and came back about 5 minutes later with 2 cups. “Can I sit with you?” I ask him, I didn’t want him to feel he had to sit with me. He was lonely and grateful of human interaction. It wasn’t the money, although he was broke, it’s how isolated he was despite being in a city centre.
I asked his name, I’ll just say W here, and he asked me about my family and other small talk.
Whilst I was sat on the cold hard concrete with a paper cup of coffee I felt the disapproval of strangers, and experienced how rude people are towards him. He wasn’t a drunk, no sign of drugs or anything else nasty. He was just a normal person having a string of bad luck. Five weeks previous he’d had a home, a future, a girlfriend. Then the girlfriend cheated and wanted him gone from her house. He’s now sleeping outside, eating at a generous local church and relying on kindness.
I was there in decent jeans, a nice top and a nearly knee length black faux fur coat with a massive crochet poppy on the lapel. I am clearly not homeless, W is in filthy clothing in several layers and a traditional ungroomed face. My phone was flat and I don’t do watches so I asked W if he knew what time it was as I was worried about my parking ticket expiring. He said sorry but he no longer has a watch. Okay I thought, I’ll ask a passerby. It was about the eighth person I asked who finally told me, people literally wouldn’t give me the time of day. My new buddy says “I’m glad it’s not just me they are horrid to” – it wasn’t said with malice but a relief.
I was with him over an hour and he was a nice bloke.
When did society get so nasty? So cold and judgemental?
I’m not saying give every beggar a tenner, I’m really not. But I am asking you to see these people as people. Don’t just ignore them. From being on his level I can tell you being ignored hurts, smiling back or saying “I’m sorry but no” or just acknowledging them is so much nicer. As he said manners are free, he needs to be able to buy a meal but he’d rather not be there at all. Don’t be angry at him for just being there. Next time I’m in town I’ll go back past his space and if he’s there he’s getting lunch.
Most of us aren’t that far away from homelessness. Just a few paychecks away in fact.