I’ve written before about being A Good Samaritan. I spend a lot of time thinking about those in need. Whether it is homeless persons or those fallen on hard times in other ways such as ex-service people. Even my first book was called Let Me Help before it I re-wrote it and got it published as The Timeless Trilogy.
It’s not that I always agree with everyone being in such a predicament. Take the thousands of refugees in Calais, each trying to start a new life in Britain by illegally entering the country despite being perfectly safe in France, Spain, Italy or even most of the African and Asian countries that they either passed through or are naturally closer to than Britain. I don’t blame them of course, they have a right to make the best of themselves but equally we too should have the right to decide who lives here.
Would people in war-torn Syria welcome thousands of even poorer people from Somalia, Yemen or Ethiopia? Probably not in my experience. There are certainly richer and culturally more similar nations nearer in the shape of Dubai, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia just for starters.
That doesn’t mean I don’t feel sorry for them though but the long term answer has to be to resolve the problems that make people want to leave their homes in the first place.
I often wonder what it is that makes someone homeless. What pushes them over the edge? Especially so when legally speaking, everyone in the U.K. is entitled to some sort of accommodation by the local council.
A few weeks ago we had come out of a nice meal in Central London. It was our first ever nice meal in a really nice venue ever compared to the usual budget places we treat ourselves to. True we once ate in a plush Lebanese restaurant over looking Green Park but that was paid for by work and our great window seats ended up giving us a fantastic view of the bi-annual Naked Bicycle Ride and its safe to say that for diners and staff alike, it was the defining moment of our time there.
Anyway after we came out of our recent meal and were walking back towards Covent Garden we came across a homeless man. He was quite well dressed, maybe he was doing it to earn money or maybe he was only recently out on the streets and still able to maintain his appearance.
We walked past him even though he caught our attention and at the encouragement of my wife, I gave him £5 or maybe even £10. He was ever so grateful but in the modern way life is, it didn’t really occur to either of us to stop and do anything more than give money. Yes it was nice to remember those in need after we had treated ourselves but almost immediately I felt I should have done more and a little disgusted with myself that I almost but not quite dropped the money into his hand in a quick “You’re dirty, don’t touch me sort of way”.
I wasn’t very impressed with myself. I should have asked if I could help him with something or at least find out his name and what was happening but alas we were already far down the street and too busy taking comfort that we had at least given him money.
Last Saturday I went to Whitechapel to give another Jack The Ripper Walk. Whilst waiting for my tourist from Los Angeles to arrive, I spent 15 minutes sat outside Aldgate East tube station. Barely 6 feet away from me was an obvious beggar, a man of central Asian appearance wearing a little tupi skull cap. He was obviously Muslim and obviously destitute. Several dozen people walked past in those 15 minutes and he would implore them to spare him some change only for them to totally ignore him whether white, black, brown or even of Central Asian appearance themselves.
I couldn’t take it any longer and decided to help. Just at that moment though my tourist arrived and my good intentions were reduced to quickly giving the man some change. I did at least make sure to treat him as a human and gave him the money and touch his hand and say to him how I am sorry it isn’t much but I hope it helps.
I don’t know if he understood a word I said but his eyes lit up and he uttered me an enthusiastic blessing. I think I had made his day though I had only given him enough money for a Starbucks. My tourist said it was a wonderful thing to do and it was very kind of me which started us off on the road to a good tour.
As we neared the end of the tour of Jack The Ripper land, I was reminded of how in some-ways so little had changed in the last 125 years for there on the pavement sat a downtrodden looking but still young white lady begging for change. Judging by her skin she was obviously an alcoholic or drug abuser and her Irish voice was either ignored or even treated with disdain as in the few minutes we were in earshot, one older and wealthier looking woman swore under her breath at her.
I finished the tour and went back to see if I could find her. I had less money now than when I saw the first beggar and there were no bank machines in sight. I open up my wallet and gave her everything I had which still wasn’t much.
She was very grateful and this time gave me a blessing I could very much understand. I stopped to talk to her for 5 minutes. I had lots of things on my mind but at least I had a home to go to. I also felt guilty that I was making money from ladies who were probably very similar to her all those years ago and had even less support or people who cared than today. It felt very hypocritical of me to speak of those poor women and not try and help a contemporary just a few hundred feet from where several were murdered.
She didn’t want to tell me her life-story though i gave her the option. Instead we did what all British people do and talk about the weather and gave her my best wishes for sorting herself out in the future and gave her the details of a shelter/hospital clinic just 10 minutes walk away and in fact ran by the descendants of a similar institution housed in a building just a minute walk away. As much as the money, I think she enjoyed a bit of company and the opportunity to feel like an ordinary human for a few minutes at least.
I made my way back to the tube station and happily the Central Asian man had gone. Maybe my few pounds had been just enough to change his life or at least to go and get a drink or meal… maybe he might meet someone else there who can help him more than I was able to.
It makes such a difference to help people. Just recently I had a problem and I sat in my car outside Southwark tube station at 8.30am and I spent half an hour bawling my eyes out about something or other. I felt like the poor Central Asian man, everyone either didn’t notice me or ignored me. A few stared at me and one woman came ever so close to stopping but obviously couldn’t do the one thing I really needed at the time, ask me if I was okay. This wasn’t a #FindMike situation but there wasn’t any thing like a #FindMike offer of assistance either and that was nearly as bad as what had upset me.
As I’ve got older I’ve got a bit more cynical due to work or maybe a being a bit more busy or even a bit more snooty and it isn’t something I’m proud of so I’m going to make sure in the future that even if people wouldn’t help me, I’m going to make more of an effort to help them. I hope you will too.