I was shopping in town this week when I saw a homeless lady I had bumped into over a year ago. I recognised her immediately, there was something about her (from the first time I saw her) that stuck with me. She was in the exact same clothes and was carrying her belongings in carrier bags like last time. It broke my heart to her like this.
I don’t know her name. I just remember the first time I saw her; I noticed people staring at me, at least I thought it was me they were staring at. I was sitting on a bench and noticed that a lady had come to sit next to me. Her clothes were fraying at the seams, the soles of her shoes had come apart and she seemed to be carrying quite a few things in carrier bags. It was obvious she was homeless. What shocked me more than anything, was the reaction of people around me. Looking at this human being with disdain as if she were no better than gum on their shoe. It baffles me how people can have this reaction to the homeless, or anyone that is less fortunate than themselves.
Anyway, this lady went into the Poundshop and I saw people part like the Red Sea when she went near them. It infuriated me. I didn’t want to embarrass her and some people wouldn’t think it’s right to do what I did; but I took £10 out my purse and told her that I think she may have dropped it and put it in her hand. I think she knew what I was trying to do from the smile she gave me. I wish I had more cash on me, what is £10 when you spend £3.50 on coffee alone on a daily basis?
I didn’t see her for a year but her face stuck in my memory and the way people treated her made me sad for humankind. As if she didn’t have a hard enough life, she had to be treated like she had an infectious disease when she was in public. When I saw her again this week, a middle aged woman loudly proclaimed “Look at her, she stinks” to her daughter. Something inside me snapped and as she passed by me, I stopped her and politely informed her that I thought she had a disgusting attitude and that she should be ashamed of herself. What was she teaching her daughter?
As I walked past my less fortunate friend, I asked her if she was ok and if she would like to have lunch with me. I could tell she just wanted to be on her way so I didn’t push and we went our separate ways. But still, she stuck in my mind.
My boyfriend would tell you that I am always stopping to help those less fortunate than ourselves. No matter how financially stuck we are one month, or how stressed or hungry or tired we may be; there are people that are a lot worse off than us and we should take time to help them as well as recognise how fortunate we are.
The first time I saw the lady whose face I can’t forget, I decided I would volunteer for a well known homeless charity. I was so excited to help out, in whatever way and it was enlightening. I carried out duties from handing out blankets and toiletries to making cups of tea and chatting with guests. It was the volunteers I couldn’t quite grasp. The majority seemed to be rich kids who wanted to feel good about themselves or wanted to do something that will look good on their CV. They weren’t there because they wanted to help brighten someone’s day.
So this time around, I am volunteering with a local homeless charity, in the hopes that these volunteers will care more about our community and genuinely trying to make a difference to those who need our help most. I’m hoping to see the lady again, part of me feels like it’s fate that I keep bumping into her. I’ll keep you posted!