A grand day out

Yesterday was just what I needed – it took me right out of myself and proved a beautiful, wonderful distraction from the rest of life.

The sun shone all day (I even got a little sunburned) and I got lots of exercise walking round town with my friend, who’d come from a few cities over to spend the day, see the new flat and watch movies.

I also got some shopping done

  • New sports bra (much to his chagrin) because at netball on Friday night I confirmed once and for all that a sports bra more than 10 years old does not suffice. I shall leave the rest for you to imagine
  • Toothpaste – it ran out a few days ago and I’ve been pinching Husby’s ever since. I don’t like his toothpaste. I have sensitive little toothypegs and I need the proper ‘Sensitive’ stuff done best by brand names (at a cost)
  • Mattress protector for our spare bed (still so thrilled we have a spare bed!) so that when Niece and Neff start coming to stay over, their nightime ‘accidents’ won’t be the end of the mattress

I also bought lunch for a homeless woman who was sat outside a supermarket ‘express’ outlet. We’d just walked past her to a restaurant where we’d had a wonderful lunch (burrito and diet coke) and walking back past her with a full stomach, I felt bad. Someone, somewhere, at some point, must’ve cared for her (I hope) and in the spirit that (were that person present) they’d like to see her looked after and noticed, I offered to buy her a meal.

Before you go thinking I’m a wonderful person (or blowing my own trumpet) I share this because I’m still in a bit of a muddle in my thinking here and I’m hoping that writing it down and getting your feedback (please) will help me to sort out my ideas.

My friend said that I was a good person and much more generous than he, which was nice, but I’m not sure it was really accurate.

Homeless people have always been one of the societal groups which have ‘got’ to me. I feel terribly guilty when I ignore them, because I know I could do something (however small) to help, and if I’ve got that week’s Big Issue magazine and am approached by a vendor, I feel bad saying no. I can’t not view them as people in a pretty desperate situation whom *someone* should care about, because we’re all human here – we owe each other that, surely? And if no-one else will, why not me?

I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me – Matthew 25:36

 I’m sure the same goes for ‘I was hungry and you fed me’.

I have always had a policy of not giving money to homeless people (I’ve always been taught not to, because I’ve then no way of knowing what they’ll spend it on. Not that it’s my business, but I don’t feel comfortable potentially fuelling an addiction. And I know that’s a judgement call I can’t really make, not having all the facts, so I err on the side of caution) so I offer to buy food for them (though not if they’re a bloke and I’m alone, which is perhaps another judgement call it’s not my place to make, but again, erring), which (in my experience) has always been welcomed.

Other people I know have told me that I’m stupid for buying the Big Issue or for getting food for homeless looking people, because ‘they’re all on benefits’ and probably better off than I am. It’s a well known fact that one of the local ‘homeless’ has a 2 bedroom house. Another is allegedly a known drug dealer, using the magazine as something a cover for his earnings.

In the spirit of erring on the side of caution, I prefer to buy the magazine (though not to excess) and offer a simple meal. In my heart of hearts I’d like to take them to lunch then home for a shower and a change and (if they need it) a sleep in a bed for the night. I don’t because a) it’s not just up to me; b) I’m afraid of being robbed and c) I’m not entirely sure it’s appropriate.

In the same way as when I see a parent screaming in anger at their child, I get a physical pang when I see a homeless person in the street looking sad, desperate and hopeless. I want to fix it for them somehow. I want to do more than I can. I don’t think it’s particularly good, I just think it’s human.

And not that I’ll often get political, but the death of Margaret Thatcher left one very sour, lasting impression in my mouth. All 650 MPs were cleared to each claim up to £3750 in expenses to attend a session in the House of Commons to pay tribute to her. In the days of video conferencing, this seems utterly unnecessary, a gross misspending of taxpayer money and an insult to the woman herself – surely no-one should need to be paid to attend if they are doing so for the reason of wanting to pay tribute! I sincerely hope that ALL those in attendance had the integrity to claim nothing. Goodness knows they have the salaries not to need it.

/endrant

Back to my lovely day.

We chatted as we walked back to the flat and my friend had The Grand Tour (he approves) then we watched Pitch Perfect (hilarious, light-hearted and a great movie – I’ll buy it when I see it cheap) and 2/3 of Sliver Linings, which was alright. I’ll watch the end at some point; I probably won’t buy it.

In the evening, Husby and I (and the rest of the Youth Team) led a group of 30 or so 11-14 y/o’s in a Cartoon Evening, which was very well received. We rounded off the night with take-away and a couple of episodes of The Good Life, where we decided that although we bicker like Margo and Jerry, we probably are more like Tom and Barbara at heart, and would likely dance in a pond at 3am given half the chance.

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12 thoughts on “A grand day out

  1. Thanks Lee, that's all really helpful, and your story is amazing! Well done you.

    I suppose in one way or another, we are all God's children and He wants us to take care of one another. Bless you for your rule breaking and for sharing 🙂

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  2. That's a good way of thinking about it – I hadn't considered that one! Doh.

    This is why I like the Big Issue – it's a legit way for people who are wanting to help themselves. Of course it's a system, and anywhen there's a system, people will abuse it, but I do think for the large part the vendors are genuine.

    I'd say your observation on our two governments is sadly more true than either of us would care to admit.

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  3. I don't typically give money to homeless people either, for all of the reasons that you cite (which are perfectly smart and legitimate reasons, by the way. We do not help them if we fuel addictions, and it is not sinful or judgemental to be wary of that factor, it is prudent).

    However, one time I made a huge departure from that rule, just as you did, due to the same tug-at-the-heart, beatitudes remembering feeling you've described here. In my case, on my way into a grocery store, I passed a car with a young-ish couple holding h a sign that said “out-of-state, homeless, pregnant, car broke down! Please help!”

    The situation was so unusual, and as I shopped I mulled over why I felt an urge to give them money… it was quite possible they were scamming.

    I couldn't discern whether the woman was really pregnant or not, but in the end I decided that my conscience was so troubled that it would not hurt *me* any to play the fool and give this couple some money. If they were lying, the sin would stick to them, but perhaps there would be grace in my sacrifice anyway. ANd if they were telling the truth, I was not being a hypocrite in all of my pro-life stances.

    When I returned to them, I thanked her for bravely carrying this child in the face of such circumstances and societal pressures to *not* carry this child. She enthusiastically said, “This is my miracle baby! I'd had cancer… I wasn't supposed to ever be able to have kids! I would *never* do anything to harm my child.” Along with enough money to buy a meal, I gave them a miraculous medal.

    The woman kindly tried to refuse the medal, saying, “Oh no, I can't take that… I worship Jesus, and He is my savior. I don't worship idols.” I explained that we Catholics don't worship Mary, we revere her as the mother of our Lord, that as he died on the cross Jesus has given us his own mother to pray for us, and this is meant to be a reminder of that. She watched her own son suffer; she understands our suffering, too.

    We exchanged “God bless you's,” and I left her standing with the money and the medal. The depth and honesty of this exchange left me absolutely no doubt that these people were the real deal. I don't doubt that my hard and fast rule to never give person-to-person was broken by the Holy Spirit.

    I will not make a habit of giving to the poor in this way; again those reasons you cited for *not* doing so are valid and real. I give to the Church or to specific and trusted charities that run outreach to shelters and food kitchens.

    However, I don't regret my decision in my break-the rules moment; neither should you regret yours.

    The Holy Spirit called you to act in your situation as well. The act of charity (meaning “love”) as a visible sign of God's love is just as important to the souls of others as the physical/material money we sacrifice… No government can ever alleviate us of our individual responsibility to be God's light in the world. You are good and right to feel as you do.

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  4. I completely understand your uneasiness about walking by a homeless person. I feel the tug, too. But then I think, I have limited resources. I would like to use them to help people who are helping themselves. Standing on a streetcorner with a sign isn't doing anything to help the situation.
    While I have no doubt we are to feed the poor, I find better ways to do it. There are plenty of organizations which help the poor and homeless. I prefer to give to and volunteer for them. Our church even has a group of people who collect food, blankets, and clothing for homeless. I give to them, as they go out at night to the areas where the truly homeless spend their nights.
    So glad you were able to enjoy a bright, sunshiny day.
    Sounds like government is eerily similar in England as it is here.

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  5. “Toothpaste – it ran out a few days ago and I've been pinching Husby's ever since. I don't like his toothpaste. I have sensitive little toothypegs and I need the proper 'Sensitive' stuff done best by brand names (at a cost)”

    I KNEW IT!

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