I have been accused more than once of being naive, as though wanting to believe the best in people is somehow something negative.
I’m not an idiot, and I’m not the type of person who will blindly trust anyone. If anything, I’m quite suspicious of people if they give me a reason to be. But despite that, I do like to see the best in people rather than assume everyone is a lying, thieving, untrustworthy, unpleasant person. Maybe that’s just me.
There are quite a few homeless people in Edinburgh. I mean, there are quite a few in Adelaide, but they typically don’t sit on the street and beg (I’m 90% sure that’s not the politically correct way of phrasing it but I can’t think of the alternative). Now, I’ll be honest, I don’t always give every person on the street money. I think, given the negative assumptions surrounding homelessness and ‘begging’, it’s sort of natural to be suspicious. Usually, I’ll give people money once I’ve accumulated a lot of change (because I still haven’t adjusted to 1 and 2 pence), or if I feel particularly bad (there was a veteran with all his army documents and everything on Princes Street).
(There is a point to this)
Today I was walking back from uni in the rain and blustering wind and freezing cold at 6pm, and I stopped at Tesco to do my Monday shop. I had to get cash out first, because I don’t like using my card at the supermarket because it makes me sign and it’s just really inconvenience. There was a man bundled up in a rain jacket sitting next to the ATMs, watching everyone walk past him with their hoods up, clearly wanted to get out of the cold and rain.
And I felt terrible.
There I was, bundled up in warm clothes on my way to buy food before going to the gym, having a warm shower, cooking dinner, and crawling into bed after being at uni since 9:30am, whilst he was sitting in the rain.
At that point, I didn’t particularly care whether or not he was ‘really’ homeless. I didn’t care whether he was planning on spending the money he collected on food, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, clothes, or something else entirely. I gave him some change, as is customary, and then asked him if he wanted a hot drink. He said, if it wasn’t too much money, that he would really appreciate a hot chocolate.
I did my shopping, and stopped at the Costa kiosk bit of the Tesco to get a large hot chocolate and grab a sausage roll. It cost me less that 4 pounds, and he seemed genuinely grateful that I’d bothered to buy him something warm.
Sure, he could have been someone just trying to scam money out of people who would feel sorry for him, and I might have bought him a free meal, but worse things have happened.
I know some people do things like this because they want to be rewarded, recognised as some sort of ‘Mother Theresa’ figure. The thought honestly didn’t cross my mind. I just felt sorry for this poor man, who for whatever reason was sitting out in utterly miserable weather. It’s so easy to jump to conclusions about people and lump everyone under the one heading, assuming that one person’s experience is everyone’s experience. Which is bullshit. It’s also easy to grab some coins from your purse and dump them into someone’s hat without even thinking about it. But it’s just as easy to take an extra minute out of your evening to buy someone a warm drink or a hot meal, even if it’s only kiosk hot chocolate and a preheated sausage roll.
I’m not saying everyone should go out and buy meals for the less fortunate, although it really wouldn’t hurt (trust me, it added four pounds to my bill and most likely made someone’s evening). I’m not even telling you all this because I want praise, it’s just something that happened today which made me think (uh oh). I’m just saying that perhaps next time you have the opportunity to help someone else just for the sake of improving their day, you should take it. Not because it makes you feel good, and not because some ‘god’ told you to, and not because you want to be rewarded. Because it’s decent and kind, and if we were all decent the world would be a much better place.