The Tramps Supper

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

How compassionate are you? Do you really help others or just help yourself feel better about yourself?

Today I was approached by a tramp. That is what they are called isn’t it, the filthy haired unkempt beggars who hang around the fast food outlets?

Can you buy me a burger he said.

I slipped through the door to safety only glancing briefly to take in his appearance. A weathered greyness to his skin, unshaved, yellow toothed. He was tall, he had a lanky stooping teenager look about him, his clothes soiled and hanging from his limbs sack like, but he was no teenager. Late 30’s I would guess under the shabby griminess.

No. I don’t do that”. I said without fully meeting his eyes.

He didn’t pester or persist. I could not tell if I was more embarrassed or him at our brief encounter. What would I have seen if I had held his imploring gaze?

My words stuck in my throat. “I don’t do that” do what? Helps someone? I didn’t even take the time to assess whether or not he had a real need. Though it was plain to see he did.

As I watched from the safety of the counter and guiltily ordered a combo no 7 for the princely sum of £3.65 he lurched over to a taxi driver dropping a group of party goers off at the plush Italian restaurant 3 doors down. The driver did not reach out with small change but he did better than I and passed a little time and talked to the guy.

Perhaps the Taxi man knew him and had good reason not to hand over cash. I didn’t even give a moment of my time. Perhaps if I had I would still have declined to buy the man his dinner.

If it were a kind looking lady dressed warmly and clean was holding out a tin in the doorway a banner blazoned across it ‘help the homeless’ I would have reached into my pocket and spared the price of a burger, then why not him?

Too close for comfort? ‘I could have replied with wait there mate’ and ordered him a combo no 7 or a portion of fries. It didn’t need to be cash. But no, too save me feeling awkward. ‘I don’t do that’. Much easier. It’s not the moment of kindness that is the issue. No, it’s the time that we would both wait for his order. What do you do, after all you have tentatively connected with a social outcast. Would you need to fill the time with conversation? Or look him up and down in more detail?

Much easier to fill the tin than reach out to him and hand over a £2 meal.

After all, what would you say? How was your day? What are you doing for the rest of the evening? Thinking boy do you need a bath, a shave, a roof over your head. No leave it for the lady with the tin to deal with those issues.

But in the back of my mind it still nagged me. One thing is for sure, it is not his choice to be hanging about in the doorway begging for food. Something has gone seriously wrong in his life. Whether it mental illness, a life changing trauma or an addiction, events in life bigger than he could cope with have put him on the streets. Can any of us say with any certainty that we would not be in his position if life had set us the same challenges he has faced? Be thankful for the love and friendship we are show by those we come into contact with. Without their warmth and support life would be very bleak. Without self respect and the respect of others, does not life lose its meaning? Is that not enough to send a ‘normal’ person in a downwards spiral?

‘I don’t do that!’ I don’t help. I put money in a tin and buy a free conscience. I stood there angry at myself for being so weak, so wrapped up in my own feelings, ashamed at my disregard for a less fortunate person. I left the shop resolved to approach the guy and offer to buy him his burger, the burger shop being next door, but when I stepped out he was nowhere to been seen. I thought perhaps I would feel relieved if he wasn’t there, but in truth I felt regret at a miss opportunity to make a difference, even if it was only for a few brief minutes. If enough of us took a few minutes to offer a little kindness and understanding, even if we can’t afford a burger or think it right a little compassion might just be enough of a catalyst to put the spiral in reverse, and if not enough for that, it might just lift his spirits for a while and give him some hope.

 

It is not enough to be charitable with our money; I resolve to be charitable with my consideration and approach too.


Submitted: November 02, 2011

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Comments

evie62

It's brave of you to write this story. I do sometimes give money to strangers but I do remember one time in Victoria when a drug addict approached me for my travel card. I gave it to him and started to chat with him. He was a decent enough guy who had somehow got himself wrapped up in something he couldn't deal with. but I felt a little afraid for my own security. Its difficult really. You can't give money to everyone. Sometimes the money you give just goes straight on the addiction. Is that really helping??Anyway, great story and very thought provoking

Sun, November 6th, 2011 11:16am

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Reply

Evie

Brave, I don't see that; only that I have walked past my fellow man oblivious to often. Thank you also for your truth, if you can’t write here with sincerity and honesty where can you sound what your heart feels. As a man my fear is decidedly less than your must have felt. So, well done to you! As I said, it may not be money that is need, just a little human comfort. It may not repair but give some rest bite to the afflicted.

You may like to know I have emailed a local homeless charity and offered my help. Time will tell if I can make a difference.

Kind regards

Dibs


Sun, November 6th, 2011 7:16am

Mike Stevens

Really makes you think. So true about giving, if not money, your ear. It's easy to pass someone begging on the street. I know the excuse for not helping; that they'll only blow it on drugs, or alcohol, but I don't like saying no, and like you did, wondering about their circumstances. It wasn't easy for you to right this piece, but if you didn't stop latter and ask yourself 'why?' I'd be disappointed in you! Great piece of humanitarian writing!

Wed, November 23rd, 2011 7:51pm

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Mike

Thank you for your honest appraisal. This microcosm in time did really make me re-assess my outlook on life. I have become far more open minded and compassionate since then. There is a new me rising, a better me. A determination to give me, share more and be more.

Dibs

Wed, November 23rd, 2011 4:10pm

Wilbur

Fri, December 2nd, 2011 9:02pm

Author
Reply

Nothing here then. I've done that, hit send in error

Fri, December 2nd, 2011 1:41pm

Wilbur

Much harder to do an attitude adjustment on ourselves than to hand over some money to someone down enough, either in reality or in attitude, to ask for it. Much the harder thing. And reversing the spiral of me-ism IS the thing that's needed. Money is easy. The other - often not even noticed as necessary.
Kind regards, W

Fri, December 2nd, 2011 9:06pm

Author
Reply

Well put Wilbur. Thankfully there is a compassionate vein in society to kick us all in the behind if we turn our backs for too long.

Fri, December 2nd, 2011 1:44pm

bobthebuilder

When I used to work construction, and saw men advertising "will work for food" I would stop and tell them to hop in and put in a few hours. If they said they would, I would just give them a few bucks and say here, just take this. If they gave some excuse why they couldn't go with me, I figured they were just scamming or whatever and say, ok, maybe next time. I'll talk to almost anyone who approaches me, and if they have a good story, it may be worth a few bucks. I realize for the most part, they are not out there by choice. It says a lot about you that you were able to share this.

Fri, December 2nd, 2011 11:10pm

Author
Reply

System restored Thanks Bob, we all like to think we would do the right thing, but sometimes it takes courage to make a difference. Not enough people have that courage. Our mind-set is defaulted to our own protection. That’s sad and it takes conscious will to change the default setting

thanks for reading this

your friend

Dibs

Fri, December 2nd, 2011 3:23pm

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