Today was a good day. The day started with some news that rocked my world. The benefits that my family rely on so heavily were cut. Cut to the bone. I spent much of my morning crying and fretting, not knowing what else to do. The only way I could think to calm down and process everything was to write it down. I typed for nearly an hour, putting my heart and soul into every letter I typed. I have a very average family, who work hard and do everything by the book, so this type of social injustice needed to be logged and read, for if we don’t shout about the reality of austerity cuts, extortionate rent and living costs, paired with minimum wage living, it’s all too easy for people to swallow to lies of the Conservatives and the media when they tell us that everything is okay and that things are getting better.
By midday I was drained. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I’d checked my bank account last night before going to bed and had seen the cut to my payment. I knew it wasn’t a mistake. I lay in bed crying, until I finally fell asleep this morning, not long before I had to get up to do the school run. I was due to do my first streets outreach in Haringey, where I live this evening. I was so tired; I couldn’t think of how I was going to muster the energy or enthusiasm to go out and do it. Within a few hours, my blog post had been read and shared by friends and strangers. The wonders of the internet eh? Before long, I was receiving many kind words of love and support and even offers of help from people that know me and even strangers. Despite my protesting, some money was very generously gifted to me so that I could buy some shopping. For what seemed like the hundredth time today, I cried. This time though it was because I was so overwhelmed. I was reminded just how good the world can be. People mentioned the outreach work that I did, mostly through the winter with rough sleepers and said that it was only right that someone should do something to help me this time. How can I even put into words… Even now I’m choked up by it and can’t find the words. It’s just so incredibly kind. I don’t deserve it. I don’t do nearly as much for those less fortunate than my peers and even then, we don’t do what we do out of charity or to be good people. I just see it as something that I should be doing. It really hit me then, that this is what karma is about. How dare I consider for a second not going on outreach tonight! The world did good for me today, so I had to do good for the world. I owed it to those who were kind to me and I owed it to those who needed the same kindness today that I received. The world can be a beautiful place and it’s our job to make it so.
I set off with my 5l flask – also very kindly donated some months ago, by the same good soul who helped me today and a bag full of tea, coffee, hot chocolate and soup and headed for Wood Green. During my two hour walk I served ten people. This may not seem like an awful lot, but their need was great and I was able to take the time to sit down with each of them and enjoy a drink, a cigarette and a good chat. I’ve always found that more often than not, the chat and the gesture of that drink holds so much more worth than the drink or soup itself. I literally laughed and cried with strangers tonight. The men who told me of their lives before homelessness and their longing for drugs just to be able to sleep. The man who wouldn’t speak at first; I assumed he wasn’t an English speaker. It turned out that he was just terrified that I was the police. I sat with him for the longest period, as he opened up and told me about his life, his struggle with mental health, the homeless brothers that he helps himself and the threat he is under daily, particularly by the police he feels, as he has the appearance of a Muslim man. The jokers who I sat and had a laugh with as they talked to passers-by who knew them, warming to me instantly, calling me “Luce”. The best friends from Italy who recognised me from an outreach I tried to set up months ago in East London and welcomed me with a warm embrace. Finally, the girl who is the reason I set up Haringey outreach in the first place. I walked past her last week on my way to a meeting. She looked settled, so I hoped tonight to see her again. In a way, it was quite poignant that my night ended with her. Kayleigh is a young widow. Her husband died on the streets six weeks ago and today would have been his birthday. Kayleigh’s husband was her protector on the streets. She told me of men who they’d caught watching her at night as she slept on their mattress behind a charity bin and lurked behind some railings when she would urinate in the night. Now all she has is her dog and thank the universe that she does. Men constantly proposition Kayleigh, trying to force her into doing them sexual favours for cash and stand by staring at her as she sleeps near Manor House. Her dog, an eight year old staff is a lovely thing with so much energy, but she has him well trained to guard her when she needs him to. She’s terrified of what will happen when her dog dies too. What will she do for protection then? I had to fight to hold back the tears as she asked “Something awful would have happened to me by now if it wasn’t for him, wouldn’t it Luce?”
There are no outreach teams currently operating in Haringey. Everyone I served was shocked and delighted that I was out tonight, so I’ve promised to return next week when I will head out with more provisions. With every hug, every smile, every hand shake, hand hold and conversation I had tonight, I only hope that at least one of the people I sat with felt even a fraction of the love that I did today. No one deserves to be without that. We each have it within us to share and project good feeling, we just have to do it. It really can be as simple as a flask, a few tea bags, a sachet of cuppa soup, a hug, a smile or taking the time to talk to someone, whether you know them or not. When we become more open to accepting love and kindness, we become more open to giving it.
By The Breadline Mum