Every day my heart breaks a little.
On the weekend, en route to my Saturday morning happy place, Queen Victoria Markets, I stumble across this shaggy, curly-haired guy with snow-white 3-day growth, weather-beaten green cap and no front teeth.
Unlike the hundreds of other times I’ve walked past homeless people in Melbourne I look him in the eye and say hello. I keep walking past like I usually do, as I truly don’t believe in giving money to homeless people for “food & accommodation” because of “this affliction” or “that illness”, but in this instance I walk back to the gentleman about 10 minutes later and ask him if he is hungry. He says no as I’ve found people who beg for change in Australia invariably do, whether it be through pride or the fact that in reality earnings are funneled into a drug habit, alcohol to numb the pain or all of the above.
While not every person in this world is in a position to be able to work and I can’t begin to fathom the myriad of scenarios that has led each of our country’s homeless people to be on the street, I don’t believe throwing loose change at someone’s cap, cup or raggedy t-shirt solves any problems or should relieve us from the guilt of seeing our fellow man roughing it on the street.
An hour or two later, my shopping almost complete, I walk past shaggy green cap guy out in the open outside a disused Italian restaurant exchanging his “earnings” with a shady-looking character carrying a small, dark sports bag, not 30 metres from where he’d been begging for change earlier. When I lock eyes with shaggy green cap guy while passing by, he looks at me with anger, aggression and suspicion as if he hadn’t even remembered speaking with me.. and perhaps he didn’t.
I’ve traveled and lived across the world for many years and seen some of the most awful things, not just in 2nd and 3rd world countries, but 1st world countries also. I’ve also seen the most unabashed joy from people in far away places who have very little. I like to keep it positive and Australia is a country where I feel so few inhabitants appreciate just how lucky we are. I am frustrated daily by the lack of thought, understanding and compassion of humans towards our fellow man.
Whether it be through domestic violence, mental illness, family breakdown, a shortage of affordable housing, unemployment or drug and alcohol abuse, there are thousands upon thousands of homeless people in Australia and it’s not going away. The easiest thing for those of us with our health and a job to do is to keep on walking by.. to turn a blind eye, but if enough of us make an effort to help our fellow man in whatever capacity we deem fit, through seeking a better understanding, financial or voluntary support, then surely that small contribution can help make the world a better place for us all to live in.
All I ask of each of you reading this is that each and every day, do one thing positive for someone else (preferably a stranger), just because you can. Say hello to the peeps behind the deli at the supermarket or the checkout chick with the glum expression at the checkout.. ask them how their day’s going.. chances are they’d rather be elsewhere.. offer the homeless guy a sandwich or even hold the door open for someone who arrives at the same time as you.
It’s amazing how a simple act of kindness for a stranger can make your own day.
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