7 Quick Takes #48 x FTSF

— 1 —
Finish the Sentence Friday

Once, in public, I saw somebody…

People-watching is one of my favourite things. I love to sit in a comfortable place and just observe whoever wanders by. The busier the place, the better.

Recently I was in the city centre. I found myself a suitable vantage point and, having some free time, stopped and watched.

I saw a group of young professionals, laughing and talking together, looking sharp in their business suits, flashy shoes and pristine briefcases. They animated, and one was waving the Financial Times to punctuate and emphasise his points in conversation. Another couple appeared to be dating, and were standing back from the group, arms loosely around each other’s waists. 

There were lots of people laden with one or two or more bags, purposefully striding through the pedestrian precinct, marching in time to the beat of their iPods, gazing ahead without really seeing anything around them other than the clearest path to get to their next destination.

Coming out of a shop, there was a mum with two small children and another in a pushchair. She had loads of bags hanging off the handles of the pushchair, and looked harried and angry. She was yelling at one of the toddlers as it tried to run off, and the older child ran after it, grabbed its hand roughly and made it be still and wait. The door of the shop was heavy, and caught on the wheels of the pushchair. An elderly man noticed, and, stepping up, grabbed the door and pulled it clear, allowing the woman to get out and get to her children. She thanked him, hurriedly, still in a fluster. He watched her for a moment, smiled at the children and then carried on his way.

Two old ladies pushed their shopping bags on wheels along, making a racket, chatting animatedly together.

A fat, middle aged man in a mobility scooter negotiated a pathway between shoppers, his basket on the front full of bags, and a small boy perched on one knee watched and hung on, grinning, as they shared the ride.

A group of girls in school uniforms shrieked and laughed at nothing in particular, sharing their gossip in the shrill tones of the young and brazen. 

The Happy Hot-Dog Man pushed his cart up and down, stopping to ply his wares and chat to whomsoever he met. He has a smile for everyone. 

Street vendors called the prices of their wares – baseball caps, jewellery, socialist doctrine, henna tattooes…

The cacophony of humanity in such a small space, all gathered together, was overwhelming. So many faces zipping along, they barely had time to register as people who had their own lives, their own stories, before they were gone.

And then I saw her.

It was as though someone had switched to a zoom lens in my mind.

Between the legs of passing shoppers, I could see a disused office doorway, and at first noticing the filthy blue of the sleeping bag she sat wrapped in, in glimpses between their ankles, I then became able to see the rest of her.

Huddled against this cold corner, the woman had her head bowed, arms wrapped tightly around her. Her blonde hair hung rank and unbrushed. Her face was blank. Set. It was the face of someone who has nothing left in life but to simply keep going for the sake of it.

She was absolutely still.

Utterly alone.

I looked back at the busy shoppers; at their eyes. They hadn’t seen her. Or if they had, their eyes slid over her and onto the next part of the scene, as if she belonged to it as much as the wall she leaned on.

I looked closer at the woman. She could’ve been anywhere from 35-55 and had the look of someone who’s been living hard for a long time. Her skin was grey and held no lustre. Her eyes were sunken in tired pits. The arms she held around herself were thin, and the sweater encasing them bore signs of long wear. She still didn’t move.

I wondered idly what her story was. How come she’d ended up there, by herself, ignored, in a doorway in the city centre. What thoughts filled her head as she stared? Whose daughter was she? Whose sister? Whose friend?

Where were those people now?

My heart twisted grimly and a still, small voice whispered within me “Go on then…”

I got down carefully and walked to a nearby shop, buying a sandwich, fruit juice, cake and a chocolate bar.

Walking back across the precinct, with the busy-ness and affluence around me, I felt dizzy, awkward, worried. 

I stood close to her and stopped, hoping she’d look up. Her eyes flicked to my shoes, toes pointed towards her. Then up to my face, finally connecting. Hers were blue, but washed out, like the rest of her. Resignation and unwashedness emanated from her body, filling the space between us.

“I, uh, … I thought you might like…I mean…I saw you there and…well…I got you some food. I hope that’s okay. It’s only a sandwich…”

I thrust the bag out at her, almost accusingly – how dare her poverty and apathy and clear outcastness make me so inept? How could I be so rattled? What was WRONG with me? Why did I feel like I was intruding on her space, or offering judgement with her meal? 

Her eyes filled with tears as she reached eagerly for the bag. She looked at me full in the eyes “Thank you so much – thank you – God bless you.”

“Er, no problem. Um, I gotta go now, er, take care.”

Pathetic. Running away from discomfort. I didn’t even bother to exchange names. ‘Take care’? Who was I kidding? How can a homeless person take care? Was I going to invite her home and look after her myself? Suggest she find somewhere better to stay (not that I knew anywhere to recommend)? Find her a job? Try to befriend her?

I walked away quickly, partly glad the uncomfortable encounter was over, partly angry as hell that no-one else had noticed her, and mostly with a heavy, heavy heart because I had offered so little, but appeared to be the only one who’d offered anything.

— 2 —

In point of people offering what they can – I’m still running to raise money for Cancer Research, and I’m still not that close to my target yet. It’s all ground to a halt just past halfway. If you feel like throwing me a bone and making me think it truly IS going to be possible to achieve the fundraising, please contribute a few quid!

I’ve been training (quite) hard, and ran another non-stop 8k the other night. I’m still not all that fast, but I’ll get the course done no problem, and there’s still another week to practice.

— 3 —

Speaking of which, I was contacted by Emily, who writes about Mesothelioma, a completely preventable type of cancer, caused by asbestos. She asked me to share the following to help raise awareness and spread the word about a type of cancer which I, for one, had never heard of. 

Cancer is SO awful, and it’s bad enough when it strikes at random, but to know that you could’ve prevented it, or done something to NOT get it…doesn’t bear thinking about.

Click on the graphic, and read her article here, to learn what it is and how to protect yourself and others against the possibility of contracting it. 

— 4 —

I have a BRAND NEW BLOG! Shared with Ten Things co-host, Zoe, we now share our poetry over at the Well Tempered Bards. Come and check us out 😀

The Well Tempered Bards

— 5 —

The job’s going well – this week I’ve been driving the MASSIVE vans. And am now feeling pretty competent with them. Not to mention with the technical aspects of the clinics, of operating the machinery to take the retinal images, and the dealing with the patients. It’s gorgeous and I’m still thrilled to be there.

— 6 —

Remember creepy baby-doll Syph? Remember what a nightmare she was? Well she left me, and went to AMERICA! Where she’s been raising merry hell flirting with footballers, stealing condoms and breaking into the boys’ loos!

Check her out here as she terrorises the US

And to keep updated, ‘like’ her on Facebook

— 7 —
Five of my co-hosts enjoyed sharing their favourite things about their beloved pets this week, in another in the TToT series. Some beautiful stories were shared, as well as gorgeous photos and memories.

Come back on Saturday for Ten Things of Thankful – we are a growing community of Thankful People – if you join us, you’ll get the warmest welcome and undoubtedly discover something utterly wonderful. We’re here all weekend, so come back on Sunday, too. Or either. We’re not picky.

Ten Things of Thankful

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

41 thoughts on “7 Quick Takes #48 x FTSF

  1. I know that feeling, what with working and not being able to stay up late any more and get my 'fix' of Americans…I miss our twitter conversations *sulks*

    The beauty of the blogosphere, though, is that everything's there to come back to, which is AWESOME.

    Syph's been very NAUGHTY as well as busy. She's given Dyanne the run-around and is being sent packing. Bad baby!


  2. I'm doing a little catch-up tonight.. Syph has been a very busy little girl!!

    I've been so busy lately and am really feeling like I'm missing out on a lot around the blogosphere. 😦


  3. 🙂 You're very sweet. But I'm really just a person – as good and as bad and as intrinsically of worth as everyone else. But I was glad to help her in a tiny way, and felt bad about my attitude to doing it.

    I'm glad you made that presentation. That's awesome. I'm awed by anyone who can give a presentation without freaking out 😀

    P.S. Yep. That's the plan 😉

    P.P.S. Thank you *mwah*


  4. Oh friend,
    You are a gorgeous soul. It's awful that everyone passes the people in need…rather ignores them. They have as much worth as any human. You made a difference in her life, no matter how small you think your gesture may have been. Last week I gave a presentation to battered women who had nothing…they talked about how blessed they are that strangers even exist their existence.
    Ps. That doll is fucking creepy as hell.
    PPS. The imagery in this post is phenomenal.


  5. … what a courageous thing to do, I'm thinking of one of the definitions of the word… to do what is difficult to do. To step away from the herd, to the parts of the world that all too often there exists a common consensus to 'not see'… very difficult. To risk the stirring of emotions of the sort that you alluded to, even more so.
    but you made a difference, to one person on one day. Nothing can change or diminish or alter that fact…

    As soon as I find my 'Big Book of Poetry and Such' I intent to head on over to your (and zoe's) new blogger.


  6. lol (am laughing with…someone!) but I totally get Kate's being creeped out by the doll… who has not had that childhood nightmare when Mr. Teddybear decides to kick out the jams?


  7. The people will still be there.

    I'm not a good person. Just a person. With the same spark in my heart for other people as most people have. We are social beings. We respond to one another 🙂


  8. “It makes a difference to this one” – as the story goes.

    To acknowledge is DEFINITELY to assume some form of responsibility (perhaps why government ministers here think that people can survive on £50 a week, and why the US government has just shut up shop…?) If we ignore, we are protected from that connection which makes us involved.

    Kindness is vital. I wish everyone knew that. And kindness to WHOMSOEVER – not just people we want to be kind for.


  9. I am a blubbering mess over here. People so often avert their eyes and pretend they don't see the suffering of others because to notice it is to acknowledge it–and then you've got to do something. Well, you DID notice and you DID do something, thank goodness. I think people assume a kindness like you performed is just a drop in the bucket, so why bother. When is a kindness ever for naught? It just takes one encounter to make a difference in someone's life. Well done! –Lisa


  10. I feel the same kind of awkward hopelessness when I see homeless people – never quite know what to do or how to act – what will be welcomed, what won't be, etc… You described the entire interaction beautifully.


  11. Awww well done you 🙂 You are Our Landish on and offline 🙂 And no – there simply aren't enough.

    Syph's MAD! Can't believe what she got up to! Outrageous.

    Thanks for the congrats.

    And yes. Absolutely 😦


  12. Love that you bought that woman a sandwich. The last time I was in San Fran, where there are loads of homeless people, I bought 12 McDonald's breakfast sandwiches after seeing a homeless man in there nursing his coffee. I then passed them out. Sigh. So hard. There aren't enough shelters and food kitchens to go around.
    Syph is a nutjob and I don't think I realized that she's got a FB page. Aaaand, congratulations on your new blog 🙂
    Cancer is such a horrible awful thing 😦


  13. She is UTTERLY cray-cray, and a lot of fun (when she's not drunk, high, or stealing).

    Glad you like the new site. It's super fun over there, even though it's just finding its legs.

    And thanks. I only hope so…


  14. Beautifully written story about a beautiful gesture that no doubt left ripples in the pool of humanity. Very touching.

    I've visited you ladies at your new site and LOVED IT! Brilliant poets. You guys ooze talent.

    Syph has a FB page? Oh Yeah. I gotta go *like* it immediately. She's my kinda cra cra. 🙂


  15. I have no idea at all. Fear of intrustion? Fear of rejection of charity or of self? Acute awareness of own sense of pride and projection that even the most desperate must still have a smidgen somewhere? Anxiety that offering charity strips away the other person's dignity? So many things it could be 😦


  16. Reminds me of my first apartment just out of college in Boston. I can't remember the circumstances of how we initially “met,” but there was a group of homeless people, one of whom was an older woman I became particularly friendly with. Her name was Lil, and when she wasn't with her group, I would find her on my way home, sitting in on a hard-backed chair just outside of a convenience store. On those days, I would always stop in, get a cup of coffee for each of us and sit and chat with her for a while before heading home. The coffee was all she would accept, and she was quite a character. I moved away after about a year and was sad to later learn that she had died of cancer. 😦


  17. I always think, that is someone's daughter. And it breaks my heart. I have run away from that uncomfortable situation as well … it's like it is embarrassing to both sides when you actively recognize when someone needs help. Why is that?


  18. I love #1, you took me to the place with your words Lizzi, I could picture the whole scene, even the noises. Your gesture to the woman definitely made a difference to her, no matter how small you think it was. On my way to picking up my kids from school, I would pass everyday by a stop light where there was a man with no hands or legs who asked for money, I guess I gave him some a couple of times. Since I drove by everyday, sometimes we would just smile at each other. Time passed and he wouldn't ask for money, I would roll down the window and he would ask me how I was doing and that was it. One time I rolled down the window and we had our little conversation and when the light turned green he extended his handless arms and I just grabbed them and shook them. He was so happy, and I was too.


  19. I can only hope so. If not even that the people who read the post are similarly inspired…

    I don't like being a 'shouter' but I think (rightly or wrongly) there's a right time to try to set a good example.

    You're one of them. I shall continue trying to develop that servant heart 🙂


  20. I just wonder how many times I've been the person pretending they don't notice *sigh* I reckon it's a lot.

    I always try – the prompts are really good for answering creatively.

    Also, when all the links come pouring in, (and I ask out of sheer nosiness here) does it absolutely kill you that you can't be first on all of them? This must be about the one time per week your track record takes a hit…?


  21. A quid is a £1. But honestly, I don't care if it comes in dollars, yen, euro or anything else – I just want the target made to try to support those who're on the front line kicking back at this disease.

    LOL she is truly terrifying indeed 🙂 Did you at least go and see what she's been up to? It's pretty hilarious stuff.



  22. Heeeeeyy! So nice to see you here 😀

    Glad you enjoyed it – I do tend to have my bit of fun with the FTSF posts, trying to take it in a slightly quirky direction. And Our Land needs to be brought anywhere and everywhere. Long Live Our Land!

    And yeah – I wish there were, too – and I think there are more than we know – they just don't shout about it – they're out there, Doing Good, making it happen in quiet, unassuming ways.

    Sorry to hear about your cousin's struggles with cancer! That must be really scary. SO glad for the 'survivor' part. That is fuel to my fire. I WILL make that target.

    Thanks 🙂 And thank YOU too – you're marvellous.


  23. Working at the food pantry, we've heard again and again that the smile received at the pantry may be the only smiles they receive in a week. Your act of kindness most assuredly made a difference to that woman. And to all the people who saw you do it. While it may have seemed that people didn't see this woman, I bet there were plenty who did, but didn't know what to do. I have no doubt that someone saw you and wished she would have thought of it or been brave enough to do it. Next time, maybe she will.


  24. Lizzi, I love, love, love how you ended this sentence. I literally think what you did for this woman was a small, but very lovely gesture. And it is so sad that others may have noticed, but did nothing themselves, but just proves what a wonderful, kind hearted person you truly are. Thank you for sharing this and always look forward to how you will end our sentence! 🙂


  25. Lizzi,
    I'm in love with this post. OMG. The first part was totally and utterly captivating…gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for being aware of your surroundings, for noticing that woman. You might think that it was “just” some food, but I'll bet that it was so much more than that to her…it meant that someone in this world still cares. Thank you for bringing Our Land outside of the blogosphere, friend! I wish there were more like you in the world.

    And thank you, thank you, thank you for raising money for cancer research…this is something very close to my heart, as my cousin (only a year older than I am) is a brain cancer survivor.

    The world is a better place because you are in it, Lizzi. Thank you for being you.


  26. Click across to Dyanne's blog to read more. My Niece found her at a fair, and Husby let her BUY her. She's been causing havoc ever since. And yes – I NEVER want to look at the things she's been up to. But can't help it. They're awful!

    Also (and I don't know if you have any idea of the magnitude of this…) you got a comment in BEFORE JANINE!

    Janine is my dear friend who somehow possesses the magical ability of pretty much OWNING the 'first comment' spot on mine, and many others' blogs. We still don't know how she does it. But anyone who pips her to the post earns a special kind of kudos 😉

    (love ya Janine x)


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