I went out for a wander today with the aim to buy lots of funky clothes from all the charity shops I was visiting. I didn’t buy anything. The only thing of any worth I did today was a buy a homeless man a muffin. I have spoken to him before and he’s from Sweden I think and doesn’t speak any English apart from ‘Thank you’ really. I saw him again in a lovely charity shop/coffee shop (Ten Foundations, Lisburn Road, Belfast. Check it out, run by a wonderful guy called Ian for a wonderful cause) and someone bought him a coffee and a doughnut. I remembered he had a sweet tooth but sadly couldn’t find the same doughnut that I remember him liking months ago so I had to settle for a blueberry muffin. A damn muffin…that’s all.
It’s going to be really hard to me to keep this post coherent because I have so many overwhelming emotions battling it out in my head and my heart about what I’m trying to say so bear with me.
It makes me feel sick that I felt happy for giving that man a muffin and turning around as I walked away and seeing him enjoying it. As I walked away. All I could do for that poor man was give him a bloody cake!? I couldn’t help him earn money, get a warm place to live, help him learn English or give him a solid meal. He’s an old chap who must have been in such a horrible situation in his own country that he moved to Belfast, not knowing a word of English, to try and make a better life for himself on the street.
I’m angry at myself for not being able to actually HELP people, and then I’m angry at society for neglecting so many people who are homeless and in need, and then I get angry at the Government for not HELPING. Why are we worried about so many pointless issues when the presiding fact is there are fellow human beings in situations so bad that they are sleeping on concrete while people walk past and cast judgement. I’m annoyed at myself for feeling sorry for them, they don’t deserve my pity they deserve so much more I berate myself for being so condescending and selfish that I feel sorry for them. What right have I to feel bad for them?! I’m sitting in my flat and my current biggest worry is an exam where I just have to write some words on paper about things that happened thousands of years ago. My biggest problem faced today was realising that the shoulder pad in my vintage leather jacket has decided to take a trip and now live in the bottom of my sleeve..
I rang my mother to try and get my emotions straight about all of this and she told me a story of a homeless guy beating up a teenage boy a couple of weeks back. (I hate that I’m even writing ‘homeless guy’…as if that one fact is his key defining feature?! He has a personality and opinions and ideas as valid as anyone else. I’m only naming him thus for the purpose of this post). Anyway it turns out that the only reason he hit the boy was because he laughed at him. His trousers fell down I think and the boy found it hilarious. Yeah, maybe I’d laugh at that if it was my friend but for a guy that probably hasn’t owned a belt in years and has to endure the derision and judgemental looks of fellow humans, someone outright laughing at him was probably the final straw. Its one thing pitying people but its even worse to mock people for their misfortune. He was given a fine (yeah nice one, fine someone who hasn’t got anything instead of helping them with anger management and getting out of their bad situation) (also not saying he shouldn’t have been punished, you should not hit people obviously, but don’t bloody fine him?!)
We walk past countless people on the street every day. Most people will assume they’re in this situation because of drink/drug problems. Yeah okay, a large proportion maybe are! But is that cause to judge them and discount them from society? I’ve suffered from mental health issues and I could very easily have turned to different avenues to ‘escape’ what was going on in my head and in my life….it was just lucky that I didn’t. Not everyone is as lucky so why the hell should you judge someone who has probably had such a shit time in their life that THIS is their best option?! It’s cruel and wrong to put your ideas of ‘how you should life’ onto other people. If that girl you see sleeping rough is surrounded by bottles of alcohol then that is her way of coping. Don’t walk past with judgey eyes just because you have a warm home to go to at night and only drink when you’re partying. She hasn’t got that luxury, life isn’t full of partying for her. It’s about existing and surviving.
It reallllllly pisses me off that I’m blogging about homelessness and feel so strongly on the matter but I haven’t got the power to help. Okay, I can help raise awareness about people’s plight and attempt to change perceptions of the 200ish people who like this blog. BUT WHAT CAN WE DO?!
Don’t look at people like they’re dirt
Give empathy not sympathy.
That’s a start I guess.
And I know so many people are going to be reading this thinking ‘what about the people who beg on the streets as a career etc’ well yeah, its crap but people do it, often working with a ring of others to con people into giving them money. You can sometimes spot them because if you ask if they want a sandwich they’ll say no, I want money etc… well whatever the case, I’m not talking about those people here. I’m talking about homeless people living on the streets. Yeah sure there are hostels but the system isn’t great and should be improved and expanded. Maybe that’s what we can help with? People need a permanent address to get a job but often need a job to get a permanent address….. brilliant, yeah, well done society, that’s super clever of you. Locking people out of opportunities for getting out of their hell.
I always try to buy the Big Issue from the legit sellers (some people are fakers, they’re the above con artists too). I remember talking to a guy with a beautiful German Shepherd in Oxford and it turned out that they’d been made redundant from working on a farm as the farm got hit with the financial crash and the poor lil dog was having to get used to the city on his paws which were all sore because he was used to fluffy grass under his feet.
Another guy I spoke to had lost his house due to an abusive partner and had been on the streets for years and all he missed were sweets! I bought him a packet of maltesers and he was so choked up he couldn’t even speak, all he did was look at me with teary eyes and devour the big bag. It was the most pure thing I’d seen in ages. (actually I’m welling up thinking about it, the guy’s deepest desire was so innocent and something we take for granted day….the ability to buy yourself a packet of sweets.)
Okay so before I get myself all emosh and then berate myself for allowing myself to be emosh over other people’s lives when they have it tougher etc etc I’ll round off this post
Please everyone just be mindful of your fellow humans, whatever situation they may be in. In the words of the philosophical and existential film ‘High School Musical’, we are in fact all in this together so let’s not forget that.
No judgey eyes people
Just empathetic and compassionate ones
that’s a start I guess.
p.s sometimes having such a smushy soft heart is a curse, my goal is to toughen the hell up but also be helpful to others, just without wanting to cry all the damn time.