Start as you mean to go on

Hasn't this year begun to fly by quickly already? No sooner was it New Years Eve, then I found myself on the 2nd, which is flying by way faster than I would like - I'm back at work tomorrow (unless I win the lottery tonight, that is) at which point I will be off to the estate agents, book myself an appointment to view the house I already know I will be buying, and I'll be ringing the girl who used to work for me, asking if he she wants to take on the shop (I'd leave her enough money to keep her going for a couple of years too - because, I'm nice like that :O) ).

Following on from how last year ended, this one has started in the same fashion. Last evening we put some cocktail sausages and mini sausage rolls (they need eating up before we begin our health kick tomorrow). 2.5 hours after putting them in they still weren't cooked, because our oven decided to give up on us. Compared to some of the other shit we've been through in the past 9 months this is not something for us to get upset over, but it is bloody annoying as it means we now have no oven as well as no hob, heating or hot water. The little 2 ring plug-in hob thing I've been using is the only cooking instrument we have. On the bright side, we could always go down the slimfast route for our dieting/healthy eating plan, and salads for dinner so won't need to be cooking anything, anyway.

Throughout all of my complaining though, and Mum feeling sorry for herself, I have "once again" been reminded about how lucky I am. Just an hour ago I read an article about a homeless man who had curled up under his blankets, to never wake again. Some of you may scoff, say he "deserved it". To those of you who do, I say "Shame on you". Yes, some people are on the streets because they have alcohol or drug addictions; that doesn't mean they deserve to be living rough. Nobody deserves to be living on the streets. In this day-and-age when there is more wealth in the world than there has ever been, when we have more millionaires than ever living in our local areas - all areas in the country have at least 1 millionaire in their midst, here we are, with more people than ever trying to find a place to sleep at night; under a bridge, on a bench, curled up in a shop doorway. As a child I remember how people all knew each other, looked out for each other. Many times I got shunted out of my bedroom, having to share with my younger brother, because my Dad had brought home a work colleague, or friend-of-a-friend who needed somewhere to sleep. Some stayed only a week, other's stayed for longer. How many would do that these days?

I had an old friend 10 years ago who found himself living in his car. I didn't live alone, couldn't offer him a bed to sleep in at my house (had I lived in my own place I'd have moved him in straight away). Instead he would come to my shop each day where I would let him wash himself, smarten himself up, take home his washing for him, taking it back the next day. He'd potter around during the day, coming back when he needed a coffee, or something to eat. On cold nights I would allow him to sleep in the shop (something that was not in our lease and I could have got into trouble for, but we had heating, toilet, cooking facilities). He stayed out the back so nobody would have known he was there. Most nights though he chose to sleep in his car, said he didn't want to get me in any trouble. He'd always worked, paid his taxes, insurances. He found himself on the streets when he split with his wife. The way the law works is wrong, for he had to continue paying the mortgage on a house he wasn't allowed to live in, while the wife moved her new boyfriend in. He went to court, tried to get it so she paid half, but all to no avail - they had a daughter and the rules get completely twisted when kids are involved. Due to paying all the bills on the house, he couldn't afford a place of his own (the cost of rend these days is disgusting) and there is no council housing for those who can't afford proper rents any more, thanks to the Conservatives back in the late 80's selling them all off. I too found myself homeless on Christmas Eve in 1996 - thankfully my Mum allowed me to move back home; not everyone is so lucky. Eventually my friend could cope with it no more. There was no help for him because he'd worked for his living, hadn't claimed anything from the government, wasn't lucky enough to be supported by the rest of us who work for a living. He was failed by the very people who should have been there to help. We, as a society, have become so self-absorbed, so self-involved, so bloody selfish. My friend eventually got to the stage where he could cope no more and one cold January morning he took his own life. One more statistic, one less person for the government to have to think about. Anything can happen, at any time in life. Tomorrow any one of us could find ourselves in a situation we would never have planned for, never dreamed of. You and I could find ourselves like the people living on our streets right now. We could be spending our days wandering the streets looking for the safest, driest, warmest spot we can find. How many of you walk by the people sleeping rough in your towns, looking at them as thought you believe they are the dregs of society? How many of you have ever bothered to buy them a coffee, sit and have a chat with them, find out why they are where they are? How many of you would be willing to help give these people a chance again? How many of you would help out a friend if they found themselves in the position of having nowhere to stay? Be honest as you answer that? Not many of you, I am sure, for you'd all be hoping another friend would take them on instead of you having to. That's how selfish we as a society have become. It's also someone else's responsibility, yet when nobody is bothering to take responsibility and help, these people end up falling by the wayside. How many of you have an old tent sitting collecting dust in your loft? How many of you have a cupboard full of blankets or duvets you're never going to use? Yes, there are some people out there living on our streets who have chosen the life and who would not take help if it was offered; they are very far-and-few-between. Even if you just buy them a coffee/tea, or give someone a tin of food for their dog, you might find that one gesture could mean the world to the person you've given it to. You might find that one gesture stops them from going down the route my friend went down; your gesture could stop the person about to end their life because they were so desperate, or felt unworthy. You could make a difference. You don't have to give them money - believe me, I know better than anyone that money is a commodity that cannot be done without but it doesn't always have to be about money. A little kindness really can go a very long way. If you can't help, don't want to help, the least you can do is think about how you, yes you, each and every one of you, could find all it takes is one thing and you could be hte one sitting on the cold floor, wondering how your life had got you to that point. 

The world is an awful place to live in these days, and I think the biggest reason for this is our lack of compassion to our fellow humans. One persons small gesture won't change the world as a whole, but it could mean the world to the person they've shared their time/effort/gesture with. Imagine what could happen though if thousands of people made a small gesture? Before we know it, we could actually find the world becoming a better place, and that can never be a bad thing. I know the small gestures of kindness which have been bestowed upon me over the past 9 months have helped me to deal with everything a lot easier than I thought I would be able to. The odd £10 donated here, £5 donated there helped me when it came to my dog's vet bills. It's going to be the same with me finding the money to take my Mum to meet her family. It will take one person to make a donation, tell their friends who will make one, and the ball will begin to roll. I believe it's called "Paying it forward". Someone who gave me some money towards the vet bills said to me "You've more than paid it forward in your lifetime already".  I can't tell you how humbled I was to hear that, for although I have done my bit, I do make my donations to charities, I have helped out people, I have sponsored friends who've asked, I never once felt as though I'd done enough for anyone, for him to say such a thing, and to do such a thing. As I've said above, no matter how small a gesture may be, if it's a positive thing, it will never go unnoticed. 

As a side note; if you are lucky enough to have someone help you out at any time, do not feel as though you don't deserve it. Remind yourself they have done so because they feel you do.  Except it humbly, pay-it-forward when you can and enjoy every second that life has to offer you. We are here for such a short time. Don't be afraid to ask for help, never refuse when it's offered. This is not a dress rehearsal; it's the only chance we get.