We all need a little change

I got told off today, by a complete stranger.

The incident made me cry, for him as much as for me. And for all the ‘hims’ out there. Let me explain…

I was walking to the supermarket, wrapped up warm against the clear, starry ColdDark, the kind which promises frost later, and I saw the lady who often panhandles outside the library opposite. She was wrapped in her blankets, with her arm around her dog, chatting to a passer-by. I was pleased, because it meant someone *had* actually stopped to give her the time of day.

I was in a hurry (had to pee!) so rather than follow my usual pattern of asking whether she wanted anything from the shop, I took out my purse and found £1 to give her. Just one, because all sorts of reasons. I scurried over to her, gave her the money, she smiled and thanked me, and I scurried away towards the light, warmth, and promise of public bathrooms.

Mid-scurry, I was stopped by an oldish man, who intruded on my trajectory by asking “Did I just see you give money?”

I was annoyed. I needed to pee. It was none of his business.

“Firstly, it’s none of your business what I do with my money…” I began.

His eyes widened and a look of anxiety spread itself across his unkempt, whiskery face.

“But he’s using it to buy DRUGS!”

My hackles rose, my bladder twinged and I tersely finished my bit “…everyone’s hurting for *something*,” I told him, “and anyway, you’ve got to have compassion. You’ve GOT to have compassion.”

He shook his head and started to voice a protest, but I had already walked away, disgusted. Dejected. Maybe a bit embarrassed.

Mostly angry, because he hadn’t even stopped to see that the ‘he’ was a woman (I’m all for gender equality, but on the streets, women are significantly more vulnerable), because he’d dismissed the idea that she might use the money to buy, say, hot food, or a hostel space for the night – it HAD to be drugs, and because HOW DARE HE impose his ridiculous, ignorant judgements on my very meagre act of kindness.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to rage-buy her the whole storesworth of food and provisions. I wanted to go back and yell at him about all the awful things which happen to homeless people, and how almost NO-ONE would choose to be stuck outside with just their dog and a few blankets for warmth on a night like this, and that anyway, it was a fucking £1, and how many drugs did he think THAT was gonna buy? Not enough for her to forget whatever pain had put her on the streets, and more’s the pity!

It's not 'spare change' it's VITAL change - summat2thinkon.wordpress.com

I kept walking towards the bathrooms, instead of doing any of it. The voices of wise friends poured into my mind’s ear, providing soothing possibilities – if I’d been angry at him, it would have made the situation worse. Perhaps this way he would consider my actions and what I’d said. Perhaps he would pay attention and realise she was a woman, not a man, and that might challenge his preconceptions. Perhaps he would find it in himself to have compassion. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

Money, to a homeless person, can make a HUGE, life-altering difference. Yes, it can also get them drunk or high, enabling them to blot out the hurt of their world in ways which would be more socially acceptable if they could do it within the luxury surrounds of a nightclub. But it could buy them a meal. It could secure them a bed for the night. It could prevent them from needing to steal. It COULD SAVE THEIR LIFE. We have NO way of knowing what they might spend it on. And no right to judge, anyway!

I continued to be upset as I did my shopping, spending ten times the amount I’d given, all the while thinking of the money I’m saving to try to move to America. The money I’m hoarding rather than doing good with. The money I earn through working and owe no-one (after Caesar). The money I *could* use to make far more of a difference than I do. The money which, if I spent every penny of it, would disappear into the black-hole of human suffering without even touching the sides.

But then, it wasn’t even the money, or at least, not just the money. It was the hardness of his heart, which had hurt me. And the hardness of the hearts of all the ‘hims’ out there, who can come face to face with human suffering and dismiss it. And the hardness and hypocrisy of mine, which does likewise. I do a little to help. At least I do a little. But do I do what I can? Do you? We could all do more, but then, we could all do more forever and ever until the resources of our purses, our hearts, and our souls, became destabilised from giving our all.

We can’t do that.

But we CAN give our change. Or offer a sandwich, or a hot drink, or a smile, or the time of day. Even if we only make a difference to that one.

We can show compassion. We can live kindly. We can act in the knowledge that Love Wins, and we’re helping it – we’re making it happen – because that small money, that small gesture, isn’t ‘spare change’; it’s VITAL change. And we can all use THAT kind of change.

Because here’s the thing – I gave a crappy £1, because it was what worked for me at the time. I *did* something. I even got a smile and a warm, genuine “thank you” in return.

I made a difference to that one.

So can you.

So here’s my challenge to you, and to me, and my battle cry: let’s give and be the change we CAN. Even if it doesn’t feel like it touches the sides. There will always be opposition – the immensity of the problem, or our resources and obligations, or the judgement of strangers, or anything, anything, anything – but we CAN make a difference. Let’s just do what we can.

We CAN do that.

1000Speak

This is an unofficial, out-of-sync post, which fits the #1000Speak ethos too well to not mention the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion group. PLEASE join, if you haven’t already, and if you’re a person who cares. Join your hopes with ours, that by raising awareness and living out compassion, we will make a difference.

If you can, SHARE THIS POST (you can do that…) because the more people who see it, the more people might be inspired to think about their preconceptions or their giving, or their actions, or their compassion, or the things they’re already doing, or the things they may yet do, and it all, all, ALL, connects and engages people in being part of a bigger whole – we’re ALWAYS stronger together. Let’s build our ‘together’. Let’s make change happen.

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72 thoughts on “We all need a little change

  1. Pingback: Quirky, am I? | Considerings

  2. Pingback: Comment Chameleon - Anna Rosenblum PalmerAnna Rosenblum Palmer

  3. Hi, Lizzi. I’m glad I found your blog, thanks to the Kindness Blog, and I have a sort of off-topic question for you. Why do you want to come to America? I’m curious to know what draws you, where you want to live, and what you want to do, Maybe you’ve already posted about it and can direct me there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi and welcome from Kindness Blog (one of my favourites – reading what Mike posts there just lifts my spirits and gives me hope for the human race) – I’m glad you’re here.

      The reason I want to go to America is simple – I have friends there, ones who belong deep in my heart and soul, and without whom, life is so much less. I know I’ll forever be torn, because my family and friends here in the UK will also be desperately missed, because they belong as deeply…but I’ve never done anything with my life – never travelled or taken risks or really tried to HAPPEN to life, and I want to. I’m ready to. And I want my friends in my life 🙂

      I’m hoping to head South, to OK or TX – that kind of area 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m sorry this man felt it was his business to judge – not only you, but the homeless “man” he saw. I wonder what happened in his life to cause him to react that way. I am trying more and more to respond to anger and heated words with compassion – because I feel that they always mean there is a problem or fear with the person who is angry. Have you ever read The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz? One of those agreements is “Don’t Take Anything Personally, because nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.” All we can do is be the best we can be (another of the agreements) – perhaps one day his perception will change. If not, hopefully there will be many more of people like you to make a positive change in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d tend to disagree on one point of the book you mention – I’ve been known to needle and goad people into conflicts in the past (part of my not-nice behaviour) and those times were most DEFINITELY about others personally reacting to me, because I’d behaved like a shit towards them and riled them.

      BUT – all we can do is be the best we can be – I love that, and it’s what I’m striving for now.

      I hope that chap’s life teaches him to be kinder from now on.

      Like

      • Ah — but people are ultimately responsible for their own actions and responses. Even if you “riled” them — they chose to respond in a similarly negative fashion. It is classically a case of you allowing your perceptions about yourself or others to color your behavior — while you may have been a shit, and while something they did may have prompted you to act — I guarantee you that it was not personal (in other words, while it may have felt personal (to you and them, especially) it was really your own issues. And then if they responded negatively, that is because they are perceiving an attack as a personal thing — not a “Lizzi seems like she is in a dark place today. I’m not going to allow myself to take this personally, because she is clearly dealing with HER crap.” Does that make sense? And yes — MUCH easier to say and analyze than actually to put into practice. My feelings get hurt often when I perceive someone is treating me badly or I assume that their actions are intended to hurt me — but only I can allow my feelings to be hurt by taking words or actions personally 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • It all sounds very zen, and I can see what you’re getting at. I also think it must be incredibly difficult to get the hang of. I double-also think that if it’s tough for an adult to understand, a kid would have no chance whatsoever! We don’t get to disengage so cleanly at that age. Still, we live and learn, and if we stop learning, we give up on living, so I’ll think about this one and try to remember it 🙂

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  5. Ahhh. Glad you wrote this. I always try and feel compassion toward the person who isn’t being compassionate as well. What’s his story? Perhaps he had a child who was living on the streets that had a horrible drug problem… a son or daughter that he desperately tried to help for years and years and years…
    Still though, YOUR MONEY. And I like to think she bought something warm to drink with your $. xo

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hope she did, too. It was down to -4 last night, so I hope she found a way to stay warm.

      I guess there’s never any knowing of *anyone’s* history, but it sure isn’t easy to have compassion for the possibilities of people who are so intrusive and upsetting.

      Maybe THAT’S more the lesson 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think that IS the lesson. But that’s me. And also, I don’t make a practice of it, in one particular case for sure. Because sometimes, we’re also just done. BUT where I’m DONE maybe would be somebody else’s case for charity and compassion.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think we’re rarely (if ever) DONE, without a set of surrounding circumstances which completely explain the done-ness. And it’s usually not without having tried to the limits of our capacity.

          We just do (and you have done) what we CAN.

          Like

  6. Did you just feel my hug, Lizzi? Yes, our giving can never be enough, but we have to start somewhere. When I can I take the child or the adult who’s begging for money to a the nearest food cart and buy them something to eat. And when I can’t – at a traffic signal, for example – I give money. I used to think it wasn’t the right thing to do. My reasons -encouraging them to beg, it all goes to a begging mafia (yes, we have those in India)….But now, I say let me give my bit and do it with a smile and hope and pray that it is used for good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • *HUGS* 🙂 I did 🙂

      It’s so difficult to know who we can trust – I suppose in the end (for myself) it’s better to give freely and hoping for the best, so erring on the side of compassion, rather than not.

      We have gangs here too – they’ve been Dickensed, and allegedly there is a ‘Fagin’ in charge, who sends the homeless out in whichever city, to beg, and then they must bring their takings back to him to be (presumably unequally) split. It’s a horrendous thought.

      Like

  7. This is so interesting on so many levels Lizzi. First, I used to believe the scare stories about the homeless spending all the money they were given on drugs. A friend of ours was even told by someone who works for a homeless charity that the best thing to do was to donate to the charities, not to people on the streets, because of this. So I felt torn, and quite afraid of the homeless.

    But (as I wrote in my post for the last link-up) when I began talking solitary homeless people I discovered they were sober – and mostly as afraid of the drunks and addicts as I’d been. I have no evidence other than anecdotal, but perhaps those who are on drink or drugs are the ones most likely to turn up at shelters? (The reason I think this is because several have given it as a reason for not going to shelters.) Anyway, if this is the case it would skew the views of people like that charity worker. And then those views spread.

    And, of course, it’s possible that man believed the stories too and thought he was helping by not giving money. (Who knows, for all we know he maybe gives homeless people food.) Are people’s hearts hard when they turn away, or are they fearful? I don’t know, but I think it’s the latter, or at least that hardness is a defence, which you also touch upon. Years ago I read Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg and in it he says that when he was working with violent youths, he knew he’d got through when they shifted from an angry stance to tears.

    You say you feel hurt by the hardness in your own heart because at times you turn away or dismiss suffering. I’ve felt guilty about that too (as you can probably tell from my “homeless” posts.) But I’m no longer convinced it’s hardness so much as a feeling of hopelessness or overwhelm that makes us turn away. You are only taking on as much as you can deal with – it wouldn’t help really if you gave away all your money because then you’d need support! It’s a struggle that I have been through many times though. Last week we bought a gold necklace for our daughter’s 18th birthday, and I had no cash in my purse so walked past a couple of homeless people. I was aware of the contrast, and yet, giving the money from that necklace to the homeless would have felt to her as if we weren’t valuing her. How do we balance this? I’m not sure, but I do know that feeling guilty doesn’t encourage us to create change. It keeps us stuck rehashing old ways, makes us dig our heels in deeper sometimes.

    I can’t help feeling that what homeless people need most isn’t money but practical and emotional support. One café owner who knew one of the men I bought food for said a social worker had made appointments to go with this man to housing and every time, when it came to the appointment, the social worker would be out looking for him, because he hadn’t turned up. I remember that guy because he said nobody cared about him, and if he believed that, it’s possible he got frightened of having yet more evidence and so didn’t risk rejection from the housing dept. (And clearly his social worker cared, as did the café owner.)

    Okay, I better stop now, before this comment becomes a blog post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If it helps any, YOUR voice was the one I could hear in my mind, above all the others, telling me that to NOT have got angry at the guy, and to NOT have turned and yelled at him or been mean back, was a good thing, and perhaps he would learn from it.

      We live in a society of such cruel juxtapositions and there is always, ALWAYS more we can do, yet we need ALL of us to do more, forever, to make sufficient of a change, and even then people are laws unto themselves and will NOT be fixed *sigh*

      I guess the best we can do is what we CAN do – what’s manageable for us at the time.

      I’ve definitely heard from people on the streets that the shelters can be some of the worst most dangerous places to be. I’ve known people leave them and return to the streets because they’ve felt safer. It’s a situation which just SUCKS.

      Like

      • Oh, Lizzi, I am so pleased to see my “voice” came across as kind to you. Yes, you did do so well not to yell or be mean back, and with luck that will give him pause to think. (When my kids were little another mother was talking about a time she’d yelled at her kids and said they didn’t hear what she said, just the yelling. It really struck me, and I’ve noticed the same thing many times since. – since I didn’t stop instantly yelling! 😦 ) It is with kindness that we guide others. It’s hard not knowing whether what we do makes a difference, and this seems to be a recurring theme for me lately. I wrote a post not long ago titled Kindness Doesn’t Require Proof, which is on a similar theme to this one, and I guess I wrote it because it is something I struggle with – am I do good or harm? Have I done enough? Etc, etc. The same questions you are going with here.

        But I think you are totally right when you say, “the best we can do is what we CAN do – what’s manageable for us at the time.”

        And thanks for that feedback regarding the shelters. It confirms what I suspected, though I wish it didn’t. It is grim, and must be frustrating for the people who run the shelters too. With my eternal optimism, I can’t help feeling there must be some way round it, but no idea what right now!

        Liked by 1 person

        • No. I wish I knew either. It’s incredibly frustrating. Not as bad as being in that situation though 😦

          And I’m very glad I heard your voice, too. I DO pay attention. Truly 🙂

          Like

  8. I’ve been told off for that too, over and over, by judgmental people who see only what their narrow view allows. A very long time ago I was, albeit briefly, on the streets. So-called ‘decent’ people end up there for a lot of reasons. I never begged, but it wouldn’t have been long…
    Thank you, Lizzi.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry you had that experience – the more I’ve gotten to know people who live or have lived on the streets, the more I understand how really easy it is to end up there, and how precarious life can be. I’m glad you weren’t out there for long, but I hope you weren’t treated with such casual disregard.

      I’m glad for your example to those judgemental people. I’m glad you don’t let them stop you. I REALLY hope you give them something to think about, and that they notice your compassion and take it on board. Keep doing what you’re doing, because if it’s annoying the judgers, then it’s an AWESOME thing to do – it will be undermining whatever preconceptions and prejudices they hold so dear.

      Like

      • I’m not sorry… I’m glad I was given the chance to understand, even just a little, what it means to be one of the faceless people no-one wants to see. To feel the fear, hopelessness and hunger. No… I won’t let other people’s opinions stop me…and I’m glad you don’t either.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Hey sparkle! You read my very soul at time, if we can’t help all we can help one! It rings true for many things. I do it through volunteering with young boys in scouts. Because to make a difference in the life of one is enough for me! Sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • YES! There are so, SO many ways to make a difference, and it doesn’t have to be in huge ways. BUT, helping out with scouts IS huge, because you have such wonderful opportunity to guide those kids as they develop their own senses of rightness and compassion, and to demonstrate good ways of being through your own actions and example. How wonderful 🙂

      You’re fabulous, and thank you so much for sharing, and for all that you CAN, and do, do. 🙂

      Like

    • YES, my dear Bean. I’m glad you noticed. You wonderful, amazing, HUGE-hearted person. Thank you for your inspiration and for YOUR compassion and care.

      Just this one, right?

      ❤ ❤ ❤

      Like

    • I hope he never does. It would be an awful way to find out the folly of his thinking. I’d much rather he went home and thought hard about it and decided to change his ideas. I know it’s unlikely, but you never know.

      And thank you 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank goodness there are people like you in the world. I just don’t even understand how that dude could be upset? I’m astounded.
    I could feel the hurt and frustration as if I was there.
    Great message and reminder to all of us. What’s your saying..??
    Oh yes….bless your boots, Love. Xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • *grinning* YOU BLESSED MY BOOTS! ❤ ❤ Hee hee hee!

      I knew you'd get it. I'm so so glad to have SO many people around me who just GET it…the closer I get with my friends here in this wonderful World Between the Wires, the more I know, for definite, THESE are my people. YOU are 'my' people. And I'm always and forever happy to be within the circle of your friendship 🙂

      I can understand all too easily how someone can end up like that guy, though, and that's a tale just as tragic (if not more so) than the one I told. I've seen people lose compassion when others have been awful to them, and it turns into a vile, proliferating cycle, which spans downwards and outwards and has devastating impact. *sigh*

      I wish I could fix them, but that's another black-hole situation.

      We all, ALL need to care about ALL of us, a bit more. Maybe we can tip the balance back 🙂

      Like

    • Ahhhhh thank you SO MUCH for sharing this further, Kerry. And YES…it’s painful when people are so closed to compassion. I’m sure it’s a natural thing for us to have and be, as part of our innermost being.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I am not surprised in the least to see these words flow from you. And everything Mandi said I want to repeat. You do so much, you care so much. And the way I look at it, if I have to know what they are spending the money on, then I’m judging them. And who am I to determine if that’s worthy? What if they are buying drugs because they are in chronic physical pain and can’t afford legitimate medicine? What if they are buying drugs or alcohol because it is common knowledge that people with mental illness self medicate because our system doesn’t take care of them. What if your act of kindness gives them the encouragement to go on for one more day, or inspires them to seek help or gives them hope? I’m sorry the man was rude and insensitive to you. He’s the one who doesn’t get it. He’s bought into the stereotype that the poor and homeless are lazy and bad. I’m so proud of who you are and so glad you are in my life, Lizzi. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • *HUGS*

      I like that this doesn’t surprise you to have seen me write. I like knowing that you would write something similar, in my place. And yes – in giving, there should be no judgement or it becomes a gift with ‘strings’ attached to it.

      I suspect the lady who spent time with her was FAR more the person who made her day, but encouragement, I will have given. I know some homeless people can sit on the street for 10+ hours and make less than five pounds. It’s shocking. It hurts. But I know I can’t fix it all. I just can’t.

      I can’t fix people’s attitudes either, but I hope I challenged his, and I hope I challenged it in a way which wasn’t too abrasive. The last thing I’d want to do is make him even MORE anti- homeless people.

      Thank you always for your kind words, your lovely heart, and YOU. I do so very love being your friend and knowing you’re mine 🙂 ❤

      Like

    • Thank you Suzanne, and for your words and engagement. It gives me hope to know there are most definitely more people ‘out there’ than just the wonderful ones I know already, who really CARE 🙂

      Like

    • *HUGE BIGSQUEEZY HUGS* ❤

      P.S. I came across a pic in my phone of you, me, Jen and Kristi at that breakfast, when I was searching for wherever the place was the hand image (in the post) had ended up, and I clicked into it and remembered for a bit, and it made me smile so much ❤

      Like

  12. I love your hugely open and sympathetic heart. I love that you don’t ignore anyone, the homeless, the man on the street, children (because so often, people ignore children, and they love those (like you) who give them special attention. This I saw you do with my own, and it made me love you that much more), and I swear even as many miles away as you are, you ignore no one even on the Internet. You’re so good and supportive and wonderful. But here’s the rub. You are unique. Not everyone has a Lizzi sized heart. Most people don’t even have a quarter of the compassion you have. People are hardened and angry, and you can’t change them. You will never change the ‘him’s’ but what you did was acknowledge someone who mostly gets ignored. You looked at her as a person, an equal, and you probably changed her day. Who cares what she spent the money on? You humaned well today. And that is something for which you should always hold your head high. You don’t have to give your America savings to anyone as long as you continue to recognize other humans as just what they are. I love your Lizzi sized heart. So much. You’re an inspiration.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I have tears in my eyes reading this – that you so precisely understand what upset me about him, and that there ARE people who see others, the ones normally overlooked, and care.

      There are lots of people who are hardened by life and made angry and uncaring by it, but I’m convinced there *must* also be good in them, and perhaps each time they encounter some goodness, it chips away at the bad. Maybe. I hope. I don’ like to think of anyone as a lost cause.

      I love the idea that I ‘humaned’ well. Thank you. And thank you for loving how I ‘people’. I hope I always, always recognise other people as worthwhile individuals, worthy of dignity and respect.

      (I won’t give away my America savings…I’m not that unselfish yet 😉 )

      ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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