Here is a post by writer Imogen Reed as part of our WGD blog series. Follow her footsteps this WGD and talk to a stranger — it may make more of a difference than you realize!
World Give Day – Food for Thought
I like to think of myself as a rather giving person. Of course, my friends and family are the ones who tend to get the best deals. I’m always the one who picks up the bar tab or pays the restaurant bill and I give regularly to local charities, supporting the RSPCA as well as a local animal shelter. I was going to write about some of these wonderful causes, but then I started thinking – It’s often the gifts you don’t expect that make the biggest impact.
An Unexpected Give
A few months ago, I was out with some friends for one of their birthdays. It was a night of the usual shenanigans – drinks at a local bar, head off to a nightclub, then stumble to a taxi in the early hours of the morning and head home for a few hours’ sleep before work. It was a great evening and it’s always good to catch up with friends, but eventually the night ended and we went our separate ways.
Now usually, I would flag down a taxi right outside the club and head straight home, but by this point, I was absolutely starving. Chips, I thought. I’ll go and get some chips.
There’s a great little chip shop that we always go to in Cardiff, but it was on the other side of town. Not a problem, I thought. It’s not that far. And it really isn’t – especially if you take a shortcut through the lanes at the back of the club.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t recommend stumbling into a dark alley in the middle of the night just so you can get some chips. It was cold and miserable and to be honest, a bit scary. But it was alright. There definitely wasn’t anyone there.
You’re Never Alone in the City
“Excuse me…” The voice behind me sounded aggressive, menacing even. I put my head down and quickened my pace, but he called out again. “Oi, mate…” I paused, not sure whether I should turn to face him. I was alone in a dark alley with someone I could only assume was a murderer. I slowly tilted my head over my shoulder and saw a black silhouette stagger towards me. He stepped forward into the flickering glow of a street light and then I could see his face. It turned out he wasn’t very threatening at all. He was pale and thin and to be honest, a bit scruffy. “Have you got any spare change?”
After the initial relief of not being stabbed, I recalled some random ‘facts’ I’d been told about homeless people. Don’t give them any money they’ll only spend it on booze. Drugs and alcohol, that’s all they want. And as I thought about it, he sighed and his shoulders slumped. “Look, I’m not going to lie… I’m desperate. I haven’t eaten today and I just want some money for food. Can you help me out?”
“Tell you what,” I replied. “I’m quite hungry too. Let’s go and grab something.”
He looked surprised. Truly surprised.
A Small Price to Pay
There was a Burger King just around the corner, and by the time we got there and ordered some food, I found out why he was so taken aback. His name was Paul and he’d been living on the streets for several months. In that time, only a handful of people had even bothered to look him in the eyes. It was heart-breaking to hear, but he told me all about his time on the streets, about people who were too scared to pay attention to him, or too repulsed to care. And this was a man who used to own his own business – something to do with finance that I could barely understand. He was intelligent and charming… not at all what I’d come to expect of a homeless person. He wasn’t drunk or looking for drugs. He was just someone who’d been unlucky. Someone who had lost everything and had no-one to turn to.
As we sat there, eating our burgers and talking like old friends, I realised something. It wasn’t the gift of a hot meal that had meant so much to Paul. It was the chance to talk to someone, to be treated like a human being again.
So I urge you – This World Give Day, talk to someone who might need it.
This post is part of a blog series inspired by World Give Day and hosted by GiveForward. To find other posts in this series please visit www.worldgiveday.com or follow us on twitter@worldgiveday.