This was a great offer as a one of the #55Joys. I often give something to people asking for money on the street. In this hot weather I have given bottles of water and juice.
I know there are theories around whether or not we ought to do this, I know that some people think “they’ll only spend it on drink or drugs” and that supporting someone in this way might actually be supporting their addiction. Well yes, but so might paying a salary to a painkillers-addicted medical professional, to an alcohol-addicted politician, to a cocaine-addicted local councillor. We don’t dictate what people are allowed to spend their money on when we pay their wages through our taxes, so I’m not sure it’s relevant to suggest we should do that when someone is on the street and asking for help.
There are also those who suggest that perhaps homeless people aren’t ‘homeless’ – that it’s a scam, that they’re preying on our good natures, that they don’t really need the money. If you live in London or any city with a fair amount of needy people you can walk past every day, I think it only takes keeping your eyes and heart open to know this thinking is just weird. Sitting on the ground, begging at a corner, bedding down in a station arch or a shop window is – at the very least – uncomfortable, cold, dirty and dangerous. And I don’t have to do that. I have a great bed and clean sheets. I don’t have to ask for help before I can buy a cup of tea or a loaf of bed. That feels like huge good fortune to me, good fortune that I did nothing to earn other than be born in a time and place when my life worked out ok enough for me not to feel the need to leave home with nowhere to go, for me to be able to earn my own living. And that’s why I’m happy to give. (Yes, I also give regularly to several major charities, I know that with regular donations they can plan help and strategise more successfully.)
Anyway – I bought lunch for a local homeless guy. I asked what he wanted and I went to the shop and got it for him. I added some fruit (soft, easy to eat in case of teeth problems) because I’m keen on fruit. I like the way he says hello and good morning to people, whether they stop to respond or not. It made me feel good, so that was nice for me (and I think it’s fine to feel good when we do something nice for someone else, sure it’s not about making ourselves feel good – solely – but that is part of it and an ok part) and I hope he had a good lunch.