It turned very cold in Dublin today. A really sharp cold. But we had to be in town early for an appointment and it was a good chance for MBH to get the last few bits of Christmas shopping she needed. The Charity hawkers were already out. I despise them even though I understand the motivation. It’s good to raise awareness for causes, but to me it’s begging pure and simple. When I give to charity it’s of my own free choice and not because somebody is rattling a tin or bucket in my face and practically demanding that I think of cause X, Y, or Z. Call me cynical as well but I just don’t trust 100% where those donations are going.
St Vincent De Paul get a lot of money from me around this time of year. That trust has built from me giving tiny donations over the years and getting an understanding of what they do. I’ve seen that they do a lot of good work directly with the people who need it.
Anyway, along with the charity beggars the addicts were also out. Sat by the cash points, making a beeline for us until they noticed the certain hard stare they were getting from me. Addiction is an awful thing, and drug addiction destroys lives, but it’s a conscious choice so reap what you sow friend. Then you also get the professional beggars out who again turn my stomach. Dublin is a major city so if you live in, or have been in one you know what I mean.
We were heading for a store that MBH thought she might get one or two things from when I saw him trying to settle into his place on the pavement. As we got closer I got the impression that he couldn’t settle. He obviously could really feel the cold and had the odd uncontrollable shiver. He wasn’t young. I noticed he had a very full beard. He had a little sign made out of a scrap of cardboard and as we passed I could make out very neatly written handwriting “I am homeless. I don’t drink, I…” I missed the rest as MBH had asked me a question and we’d walked past. A dozen steps down the street was the store we needed to go into. The guy wasn’t saying a word to anyone who passed. No shouting, no demanding, just trying to sit quietly.
Inside it was already quite busy and the Missus started looking at things. But my mind wasn’t in the store yet,
“What do you actually need in here petal?”
“I’m not sure”
“Are you just wandering?”
It was warm in the store so I took my gloves off.
“Petal, are you looking for something in particular?”
“No, can we not just wander?”
“With no purpose?”
“There’s nothing wrong with that”
There was to me at that moment though. We wandered around a few more displays and all the time I was thinking that it was just crap that nobody really needed. There were more people in the store than should be at that time in the morning. There was also, to me at least, that faint building whiff of desperation and determination to buy everything needed to make a perfect Christmas for whoever. In three or four hours time the Christmas Shopping madness would be in full swing.
I didn’t really want to be in there anymore. My mind was still outside wondering what the rest of a small cardboard sign said. Having no purpose didn’t just mean wandering aimlessly around the shops. I noticed one of the store security guards and thought to myself that the warmth and Christmas music playing didn’t necessarily make this a welcoming place for all.
“Come on let’s go” was all I said. MBH and myself have been together for so long now that there was no argument about it. It was time to leave.
As we walked out of the store my hand was already in my pocket sorting through the change I had for the car parking ticket. MBH oozes love and a caring attitude, it’s what makes her a very nice person and very good at her job. It’s always there at the surface and is given unconditionally. It’s my job to watch for the ones who take advantage of that. And my little warms spots are somewhere deep inside for people that are close to me. Old cynic that I am at this stage in life.
“Take this and give it to that guy, ask if he wants a cup of tea”
I didn’t have to say more than that because I knew she would have noticed. She notices everything like that. I stood a little way back as she bent down to ask him. Having a smiling caring face looking down at you is better than my mug. There was no discussion about it, just a vigourous nod of the head. We nipped into a cafe and bought a large cup of tea.
“Put sugar in it petal”
“What if he doesn’t like it?”
“It’s a little bit of energy and sweetness and I don’t think he’ll mind it”
We got a free piece of chocolate with the tea and, again, I stood back a little bit as she pressed the tea into his hands and I could see her explaining that it came with a piece of chocolate. I couldn’t see her face but I knew she’d be smiling at him. She’s good at that.
Then we went back to the car and left town.
But I’ve thought about that guy today. MBH said he wasn’t from Ireland. He looked a little Middle Eastern to me. That made me wonder a little bit what his story was as the Muslim religion and culture is very focused on charity and helping those less fortunate. But, hell, the state the World is in right now there could be so many reasons why he ended up here. It’s only later when I thought more about it I realised it was the sign that had unconciously grabbed my attention. Neatly written, thought out. Educated.
It was also his quietness that I noticed. He could have been numbed by the cold. Or maybe drink or drugs hadn’t eroded some things – whatever was left of pride perhaps. Who knows?
It only takes a couple of turns of bad luck to have you in an awful situation. Sometimes entirely out of your control. You can’t fix all the problems in the World. I spent a lot of time explaining that to MBH on the journey home … just so it wouldn’t prey on her mind.
There are so many forgotten people that just sit there quietly. A lot of problems in the World. But hopefully a hot cup of tea and a smiling face made the tiniest bit of difference, for the smallest amount of time, for a very small – and quiet – part of the World today.