Fo a bit of context: I have moved 150 miles away from home to pursue an MSc at a good university. It has a great big Students Union (SU) building and more often than not there is a gentleman in the foyer selling the Big Issue, about my age. This means that he is homeless and is working to rectify that rather than just expecting others to do the heavy lifting. I find that most inspiring and endeavour to give him my spare change. However, this post is not about my charitable choices though, it is about Rob.
Today I spoke the the gentleman, he is called Rob. Rob stood there talking to me telling me a bit about his story and how, after 10 years, he has got his first flat and doesn’t have to live rough anymore. All the time Rob is holding a bulging rucksack and after a few minutes excuses himself to put it down. I asked what was so heavy and Rob astonished me with his reply.
Rob pointed at the SU foodbank collection and explained that he has brought in some tinned food for the foodbank. My jaw hit the floor and I checked that he, Rob, the chap selling the Big Issue, who has been homeless for some time, who is clearly just making it with a frayed shirt collar etc etc, was giving food to the food bank. In his soft voice he said, without any hint of irony, that there were people worse off than him, it was from his spare income (WTF???) so he was just giving the little bit that he could.
Capitalising on the shock on my face he wordlessly reached in his bag and produced a Christmas card for me, a regular. I was humbled and had to thank him and walk away as I thought I was going to cry from the huge mix of emotions that welled up in me. Shock, shame, relief, wealth etc. It really was rather overwhelming, for moments before I was cursing the feeling of deep fatigue brought on by my endless petty sicknesses that I have had since coming to Sheffield. It was a really sucky feeling that was jolted into perspective by Rob.
It is easy to intellectualise about the plight of others distant from you, share in a sense of empathy and be horrified at the people around you that don’t seem to care. If you want to do anything to make a difference this Christmas go up to a stranger like Rob, engage them in conversation and prepare to be surprised. Me? Stuff like this throws me more and more. Perhaps it is age.