Ten Things of Thankful 106 #10Thankful

This time I’m officially late for my own link-up, and I have no excuse – you’ll have to accept that it’s who I am as a person.

It’s actually not. Okay, it actually is. Anxiety has been kicking my butt for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve had some pretty sucky days. Sometimes there have been specific triggers (not sharing) and sometimes it’s been nothing in particular. And some of the time it’s been that I’ve had a teeny-tiny summer cold, which knocked me utterly for six, and left me overwrought, exhausted, and unable to do anything upon getting home, bar fall into bed and sleep nightmare-filled anxiety dreams.

Irregardless*, the show must go on, and the point of this thankful gig is that we remember that there are ALWAYS things for which to be grateful. Or people for whom to be thankful. And that there are most definitely at least a handful of silver linings to brighten the darkest time, even if it takes a few hours extra to realise that and be able to write them. HERE I GO!

Firstly, WE HAVE A WINNAH! Remember I for ages tried to get you all to vote on the new banner, and at first no-one did, and then you ALL DID, and then I ran out of time to do anything with it? Well I’ve done something with it – many congratulations to The Bipolar Mama, whose entry won with a landslide of votes, and whose image has now been turned into the banner we will  (as of next week) use for the forseeable future.

10Thankful BannerSecondly – yes, good things happened this week in amongst the crappinesses. There were times with people I adore. There were Skypes and WhatsApps and photos and messages and they kept me from going utterly out of my mind. And there were naps for when I did utterly go out of my mind, and awake was too much and I just couldn’t.

Thirdly there were some things which were good for my (ever-fluctuating and constantly spun-glass fragile) ego, like a bed-head selfie after one of the naps, which drew some very favourable responses, and a body-measuring-with-an-electrical-current thing today, which gave me some really, really positive statistics. Undeniable ones. By science. A one in the eye for my eating disorder (which, yes, with all the anxiety, has been causing issues – no I haven’t reintroduced added sugar/sweet treats into my diet, but I do have a PLAN to, which will actively combat my fears around this, so that’s a start).

Fourthly I have an article being published in the UK’s largest street magazine, The Big Issue, next week. It’s just a very small couple of hundred words with a professional slant, but I’m SUPER excited about it, and I have networked myself some contacts, so that’s AWESOME.

And then there was my conference today, for work, which went really well and was great fun, but afterwards – that was the bit which really stood out for me:

We were in a big hotel and they provided food – chocolate chip cookies (and a non-sugar version of same) and fresh fruit all day, and a buffet lunch. At the end of the day there were still LOADS of cookies (mostly the non-sugar, natch) and some fruit left. So I asked nicely if there was a policy which meant they would be thrown away, or whether the nice guy-behind-the-table minded if I took them up into town to give out to the homeless people I know fill so many doorways there.

He looked surprised, but pleasantly so, and very kindly acquiesced. Which is AWESOME because often big corporations aren’t keen on getting involved, so far as my experience suggests, and he even went off to find me some bags to put the food into.

Off I went, and there – there in the sun-baked streets, at knee-level, on filthy sleeping bags, with unkempt hair, and tobacco-stained fingers – were the rest of my thankfuls.

I’m thankful for Stitch, who told me that mostly what’s useful is cash for a hostel for the night. People buy him food and coffee all day, but he needs somewhere to sleep. And t-shirts (if I had any). He took some cookies as an afterthought, but isn’t really a fruit guy.

He pointed me across the street to Jenny, who LOVED fruit, and lifted an apple to her nose and sniffed it with an expression of pure rapture, and we chatted a while. She said she would take the rest of the fruit if I had any left after my travels. She smiled and wished me well.

The Scottish guy outside the mall was VERY thankful for the cookies, and I’m glad for him, because he took a handful of them and told me that he’d be fine as long as the police didn’t keep pestering him. I told him to give them a cookie if they tried, and we shared a grin.

The Big Issue seller took two cookies and was very happy to stop and chat for a moment, but I didn’t want to stop him from making a sale, so I didn’t spend long with him.

There was a lady in a doorway with scarred arms, who took fruit but not cookies, and called her friend Mick over, who took cookies but not fruit. She smiled at a little kid as he walked past, and then Mick told me he’d be going to hospital later, as he was afraid he had appendicitis.

Homeless Doorway

The slurry old man with the big beard was great fun, and his mate (a joker in bare feet) who tried to get me to guard his bike while I was trying to offer cookies (he then decided to take the bike with him, as it would be quicker) was a HOOT, and also maybe drunk. But the slurry old man didn’t want cookies because last time he had some he got a stomach upset. So that was that, but we sat and chatted a while about diabetes and why I do eye-screening.

I returned to the Scots guy because his cookies were gone. He took some more once I’d sourced a plastic bag from a nearby fruit’n’veg stall, buying plums and bananas for Jenny to do so (because they’re not allowed to give out bags, by policy, but she did give me an extra one when I bought fruit), and he eagerly scooped them in, whilst exclaiming to me that he’d eaten all the others!

I was a bit concerned about the guy with a prosthetic leg, as he was trembling so badly, but he seemed to be coherent enough, and was HUGELY grateful for the remainder of the cookies. Someone had just bought him a hot-dog, and his phone went off as we were talking. He fumbled the phone and the hot-dog and nearly dropped everything in his lap, but was alright.

Then I went back to Jenny and gave her the fruit, and sat down to chat with her, and I’m thankfuller than ANYTHING for that.

I learned that she’s been on the streets for five weeks, and the homeless community in my city is strong and wonderful. Some of the guys even have their own language of whistles, so they can communicate from far away. I learned that there is plenty in place for the under-25’s, but that the older homeless “just have to suck it up”. People buy her take-aways from Burger King (because it’s easy) and she hates them, so she passes them on. She just doesn’t like that kind of thing in her body, but she LOVED the fruit. Seriously loved it.

I learned that her Polish friend (whose name I didn’t catch) had fallen off scaffolding and busted his torso, and like that, was on the streets. I met Michelle, who spent most of her time slurping her frappucino, but who had been homeless for 14 years, and JUST LAST WEEK GOT A FLAT! I loved that I got to congratulate her, and that we all shared a moment of celebration. I felt honoured to be included in it. Michelle still comes down to spend her time with her street-friends – they are her people.

Jenny told me that homeless people need hot water bottles in winter, because in spite of all the blankets and sleeping bags, they can’t GET warm. She said that a lot of the churches will intermittently provide meals (cooked breakfast on Thursday mornings in town; hot dinner Sunday afternoons, beyond the shops) but that they don’t talk to one another, and sometimes there will be three meals available one day, and none the next.

There’s a day centre for homeless people, where you can have tea and coffee for 20p, and a cooked meal for £2, and there are showers and laundry facilities. Most of the people at the day centre are ex-homeless, but because this is their community, they nonetheless spend their time there. If anyone is really too hard-up to afford the food, the tea and coffee will be free, and they’ll be given baked beans.

The hardest thing is the mornings, from about 6:30, when they’re awake and hungry but nothing is open, and even when the first baker’s opens at 8, they can only get something if they can pay. They mill around and everyone comes to see Jenny, because she’s always there, in her stoop outside the shoe-shop.

I need to do something, and I’m thankful for the push. I need to take my head out of my ass, get myself in gear, and find ways to get breakfast to these people. I told Jenny I couldn’t guarantee anything, but that I would see what I could do. For now I’ve emailed my vicar at church to see if he can come up with something. Not prayer. Not discussion (or, not those things alone).

But SOMETHING.

 

My dream is an urn of hot water, and fresh fruit and bread rolls, and thermos flasks to give to them to keep and come back to refill (the latter being Vince’s idea – having been homeless, he told me that when everything you own is carried on your back, you get a very strong sense of ‘what is yours’, and I would like them to have something which is theirs). My dream is to somehow find a way to make this happen, and to get up early and BE THERE for them, because I get a feeling that lots of people say they mean well, but that few put their money or their energy where their mouth is.

My dream is that they won’t all be on the streets for 14 years before they get somewhere to live, and that in the meantime they at least get breakfast. Reliably. Somehow.

Surely I can do that? Can’t I? I can. And I am determined to try my best for this wonderful woman who let me sit with her, and chatted to me wonderfully for 20 minutes. I don’t want to let her down, and I DO want to help. They matter to me.

I’m not a charity. I don’t have a GoFundMe, or any sensible idea of how to achieve this. But if you want to help, I take PayPal, and I WILL make a difference. I’ll even go to bed earlier so I can get up early for them. I have an abundance, and they have next to nothing. Surely an early start and a bit of breakfast is the LEAST I can do?

Time will tell, but I’m going to find it hard. The worthwhile kind of hard. I really, really want to do this.

I’ll leave you with some beautiful, haunting wisdom from Jenny, which is what I mulled as I took t-shirts across to Stitch, had a small chat with him, wished him well, and then cycled home, buzzing with ideas and huge, huge amounts of gratitude.

“The most useful thing of all is cash. I know there are some who will spend it on drink or drugs, but it took me a long time to realise they’re just hurting. Everyone’s hurting – some hurt for food or water or warmth; others for drink or drugs, but we’re all hurting, on the streets.”

 

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77 thoughts on “Ten Things of Thankful 106 #10Thankful

  1. So, Lizzi – why don’t you set up a GoFundMe? I see that the UK is a supported country. With all of the connections you have, and the connections they have, and the connections their connections have – well, it could be something very worthwhile. In the meantime, how would one donate via Paypal?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m going to look into it tonight – I think my issue was that you need a specific amount, and people pledge towards it, which would help eventually, but not in the immediate. I wanted to do something RIGHTNOW, which I did, but it’s not sustainable.

      I will PM you on Facebook, Jana – you’re an amazing soul ❤ ❤

      Like

  2. You do need to do something, because that is what you do. It starts small. In our community it was a group of women who came together to provide mother’s day baskets for homeless women. It included both frivolous stuff and stuff they need (like tampons) but just do without. Based on that a friend and I are trying to start up with “welcome” kits for when they arrive at the shelter. From there we want to branch out but we, like you, have to DO something and not talk about it.

    I think it is great, what you perceive as little really isn’t to them. That you gave them the gift of your time was probably better than the fruit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This post is fantastic. I’m so glad I found this link-up yesterday and your blog. The details you pull into your writing are stunning and lovable. The cast of characters, from Stitch and the Big Issue Seller to the Lady in the Doorway and Slurry Old Man are marvelous. Oh my gosh. Layers and layers here. You have a real gift.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome, Julie. Thanks for coming over, and what a lovely comment! I really appreciate knowing how my writing is perceived by new readers, and it sounds like you really enjoyed it, which is AWESOME. Thank you for letting me know.

      I met some truly wonderful people, and I’m so happy I met them. Gonna see some of them again, I hope. Jenny and the Polish guy were asleep this morning when I went back, so I just left them to it.

      Like

  4. Truly admirable. I wish you well with your project. I am continually amazed at the hunger of the kids at the school where I work, and most of them are not homeless. In this world of plenty no one should have to go to sleep hungry. So much of the trouble in the world is deep and intertwined and complicated. Hungry where there is food? This should be a no brainer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks May – I hope I can do something useful and make a real difference to them somehow. I’m determined. I didn’t let them down this morning but I need to go back and figure this out a bit more. I’m sad to hear about the kids in your school. Worries me about what they do over summer…

      Like

  5. What a great moment! I often drive by the homeless around here and wonder how to help. Many are in deep conversations with someone imaginarily important. The steady breakfast option is so simple.

    Thanks for sharing your joy!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, Lizzi, you are so good at just striking up conversation. Simply listening and chatting with these folks helped them. I have no doubt. They are overlooked day in and day out, and so often they just want to be noticed and heard. Even without breakfast, you’ve done good. But breakfast is a great idea. No doubt it would be appreciated. Love and serve. It’s what we are called to do. You are doing it. And the bonus is it helps the person doing the serving just as much as it helps the people being served.
    I pray your coming week isn’t sucky.
    On another note, I am being Clark this week. Clue #4 as to why I wasn’t at the live TToT thing on Saturday: For some reason, our house doesn’t show up on some GPS maps, which really isn’t helpful when a tow truck is trying to find our house.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ohhh did you have to go and direct? What was being towed? I wasn’t there because every time I asked when it would be in my timezone, I was told ‘Tuesday’, so I gave up.
      Thanks for the prayers. So far the outlook is quite good, which is nice. I am hopeful for it. I hope yours is good, too.
      And YES. It made a huge difference to my day. I really enjoyed meeting those people and having the chance to stop and chat with them. It was brilliant 🙂

      Like

    • It’s okay – Vince came with me this morning and they were all asleep anyway – we just left the breakfast bags and left. We were fine, and I hope they liked their breakfast. I hope no-one stole it.

      Like

  7. Pingback: * Ten Things of Thankful | Teachezwell Blog

  8. Pingback: Helping the Homeless: A Blunt Guide | Becoming Vincent

    • I’m probably more okay doing nice things for other people. It helps me. It makes me feel far less guilty for all my abundance. I’m okay. Vince came with me this morning cos he didn’t want me to go alone. He also gave me LOADS of useful insight, and is writing a post about how to help homeless people.

      Your wish for my week is sweet, and one I share. I could do with a chill week. Thanks Pattie. Hope you’re okay *hugs*

      Like

  9. Sometimes I am deeply struck by the beauty of the people I am fortunate to have in my life, and you strike me more often than most. Big blow to the head. 🙂
    You’re a lovely lady, my friend, and I’m lucky to know you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish I could accept the accolade. I’m just noisy about it. Not trying to be cos I find that gauche, but I wanted to explain how much these guys touched me with their very simple warmth and interaction in spite of how most people just walked by them. That hurt.

      I’m lucky to know you, too. You’re awesome.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I love your heart. Please be gentle with yourself. You seem to put an awful lot of pressure on yourself. I have no doubt that you will be able to make a difference. But I worry that you take the weight of the world on your shoulders.

    I love that you had such wonderful conversations. Good for you taking time to do that. We could all learn that lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awh thanks so much Diana 🙂 That’s really sweet of you to say. I can’t ignore these people – EVERYONE seems to do that. And it’s agony to see them overlooked. I’ve spent so long in life overlooked that it hurts when people do it to others. I had warm, genuine smiles. They wished me good day and were so happy that I’d stopped to talk to them. I know how that feels to crave for anyone to take a positive interest in you. And I know how much it hurts when they don’t.

      The conversations were AMAZING and I hope they continue.

      I really do 🙂

      Like

      • I understand the overlooked feeling. I feel inspired to go help someone, as well. I volunteered at a homeless shelter for families for awhile. It felt so good to help. For me the challenge is not getting too attached and taking their problems as my own. I am an empath, by nature, and it is always a struggle for me to realize that I can’t do it all myself. Especially with children. I have a huge soft spot for troubled kids. Probably because I was one. I want to fix all the problems, so everyone can be safe, happy & healthy. It’s hard for me, sometimes, to find the balance.

        Well now that I’ve rambled…thank you for this post, and thank you for wanting to improve the world ☺☺

        Liked by 1 person

        • I get it. I get hugely messed up because I want to fix people when I see them hurting, and somehow make it okay for them.

          I figure it’s better to love generously than love ungenerously.

          Sorry you know how it feels to be overlooked. That sucks. 😦

          Like

  11. Cooking is a good reason to miss a vid chat… I cook for a local food kitchen … we do two meals a day… I tend to be called on for dinners and baking… Its a worthwhile cause. Im glad youre making this happen! WAY to go!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a wonderful way to share the cookies and fruit. In the past, I’ve had bags in my car with food and water that I’ve handed out to the homeless individuals I’ve come across. Thanks for the reminder that I need to restock.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Years ago, for a college placement, I worked in a homeless centre, food, showers, chance to see a GP. I was a typical egocentric, twenty something, going through stuff and thinking that my stuff was the worst stuff ever. It wasn’t and being there, really opened my eyes, and changed me forever. Some of the things I saw were heartbreaking. A young guy for instance, with a mischievous personality, lively, charismatic, who complained of having sore legs. Everyone tried to help but it was too late. One week he was able-bodied, next week, lost both legs below the knee due to gangrene.

    It’s a sad reflection on society and these people need all the love, compassion, help and support that they can get. With our right-wing government, it isn’t going to get any easier.

    I’m glad you exist, with your love and niceness and hugs *cringe* and those sparkles you love to cast about the world. You’re certainly taking steps to make it brighter.

    I used to do what I could when I lived in a big city, but now, living in a more rural area, one doesn’t see many homeless people. I’ve only met the lady who sells the Big Issue outside our very small Sainsburys. One is still too many though to my mind.

    Good luck with your article! I always read it, I think it has come a long way as a publication, so hopefully I will be reading you next week.

    And good luck tomorrow morning. If I were closer, I would help you.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. We are all hurting. So true. We don’t know someone’s story until we are willing to sit and talk to them, as you did. This is the ultimate Silverlining’s post. Good for you. I can’t imagine not having an Apple when I want some fruit. I love fruit. Good for you and putting your money where your mouth is, as the phrase goes.
    🙂
    Last week it was candy and this week it’s cookies and fruit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I took doughnuts to the security guys this week, too. I needed to bribe them to let me in early this morning, and when I got there, the big grille was raised and ready, bless them.

      I am going to need to be SUPER accountable for this because I hate hate morning and I give up easily. But these guys matter. I don’t want to let Jenny down.

      Thank you so much for your support and encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. ❤ I will do whatever. When you have a plan in place, let us know specifically what you need. I'll send $, whatever. You are a beautiful soul Lizzi. And always continue to amaze me and make me want to be better. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gretchen you have a beautiful, beautiful soul and THANK YOU! I will also need encouragement and reminders to KEEP DOING THIS! THANK YOU! I’m going to go to the supermarket later and buy fruit juice box-drinks and bread rolls and fruit as a start for tomorrow. Then tomorrow we’ll see what happens, and I’ll research thermos flasks and things on amazon 🙂 … shall we PM?

      (also, LOVE YOU G!)

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh, Lizzi, I love what you have done and plan to do. As you know, I’ve also taken to chatting to homeless people, but never so many in one day in such depth. I rarely see the same people twice and even those I do see again move around – there doesn’t seem to be the sense of community you describe and several have said others steal from them, so instead of keeping the money they get in the cups they hold out, they hide it away.
    What we do have here though, are a few cafes that do “suspended” meals where people can pay in advance for a meal and a homeless person can come at a later time and get it.
    And I agree with Jenny.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny is so sweet and so smart, and I do NOT want to let her down. I strongly don’t. Strongly strongly. I need to make this happen somehow. It wouldn’t take much, would it?

      I am DETERMINED to make a difference. And you, my dear, are an inspiration because I know you’ve done this kind of thing before, and each time I know that someone talks to homeless people I feel more galvanised to get off my bum and be more involved. So thank YOU for your example.

      Like

  17. I wish I had the money to send you. However, I do have yarn and knitting needles and love making hats. I like the idea of them having something that’s their own. And every little bit of warmth helps in winter. Would that help?

    Like

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