A young man in a hooded top is walking down a high street, eyes on his phone, earphones in his ears listening to whatever is on his MP3 player. He looks up and sees a man in ragged clothes, wrapped in a blanket, with a piece of cardboard in front of him, asking for money to buy food. The young man stops, reaches into his pocket, puts whatever change he happens to have, bends down, puts it on the cardboard, and continues on his way without even acknowledging who he’s just thrown money at. He feels a sense of satisfaction that he’s helped someone and thinks to himself “that wasn’t hard”, not realizing that the reason it wasn’t hard is because he did the minimum possible.
That young man, is me.
I wish I could be writing this and say that it was me in the past, but I do still walk by. Sometimes out of lack of time, sometimes out of not knowing what they will actually do with the money, all of the time with some excuse that I think is justified. Being grateful and appreciate what you have doesn’t change the fact that some people have nothing, or excuse my actions. Even though when I buy a copy of The Big Issue I have no intention of reading it, but I buy it because part of me is thinking “They’re trying to do something about their situation”. Does it matter if they’re actively trying to help themselves? It does seem easier to help them though.
People being homeless is a massive problem in itself, it’s just one of many problems that seem to afflict this world. I have an odd sense of guilt that by focusing on one I’m ignoring the others. The problems seem so huge I can’t see what I can do, and I don’t want to make the situation worse so I effectively do nothing. When I do have a chance to give some money to a charity, I still have my hood up, earphones in my ears and walk by the charity representative in the street who’s desperately trying to get my attention. Again I justify it with “not much time” or “don’t have much money” or its just plain inconvenient. The latter is possibly more understandable at the moment with many struggling with money, but whilst I’m not overflowing with cash I’m not exactly struggling either; I’m sure I can afford a couple of pounds a month, though a couple of pounds multiplied by half a dozen charities it soon adds up.
It feels like I’m making excuses, it feels like I’m walking by, and I can’t exactly criticize others when they do the same.