We recently travelled to Prague for a few days respite at the end of a very busy year and to celebrate a 40th birthday (he’s the old one, not me) and our 15th wedding anniversary (go us!). It was a great little break in a beautiful city. Amongst the gothic architecture and festive decorations we saw a few homeless people on the street but that’s now par for the course in any major city. Some were face down in prayer position, cupped palms facing upwards. Others dramatised (we saw this in action…) limps whilst shaking a cardboard cup at passers by. Again, par for the course. I felt a pang of sadness for these people regardless of their story or behaviour but I pushed this to the back of my mind and enjoyed the many Christmas markets, hot mulled wines and 27 000 steps a day as we explored.
We flew back to Glasgow and had a night to spend there before heading back to Orkney on the Saturday. We had a meal booked that evening at 9pm. Glasgow was CRAZY that Friday night. There was a protest on Buchanan St off the back of the previous days general election. So amongst cheers of “hey, ho, Boris must go”, placard waving protestors and riot police, there was the contrast of the sparkly Christmas market with it’s food smells and sparking lights and the hoards of very loud drunk people enjoying their annual Christmas night out. And homeless people. Dozens of homeless people. I have NEVER seen so many destitute people in one city at one time. There seemed to be a homeless person on every street and around each corner. My perception of this was possibly heightened by the previous few days in Prague but I felt the homelessness situation in Glasgow acutely.
For me, as a pretty sheltered islander who doesn’t see homelessness in this form on a daily basis, I was pained to see how all the festive party go-ers just walked past and ignored the people on the street begging for help. But I guess when you are confronted with this every day, you have to get hardened to it to cope and accept that even if you want to, you cannot help everyone.
While we were in the cosy restaurant eating our meal, the heavens opened and it started lashing down. Like, dancing off the road lashing down. All I could think about was the people we had passed on the way there, wrapped in their sleeping bags on the cold hard concrete. What do they do? Where do they go?!
I wanted to help everyone. I saw each of those homeless people and wished I could do something. To help my feeling of impotence, while we were in the restaurant, I got my purse out and decanted all my pound coins into my pocket, determined to give something to everyone we passed on the way home. I didn’t care what they chose to spend it on, I just wanted to let them know that I had SEEN them, that I acknowledged their existence. The rain had dispersed a few of them but I still managed to drop money in a few pots. One of the lowest points was when we were nearly back at our hotel and we passed a man struggling to get comfortable in a few layers of sleeping bags in a doorway across the street. He had a childs umbrella popped open and was trying to arrange it so it would keep the rain off his head. My heart broke a wee bit more at that. I put a couple of pounds in his pot too.
I came home full of the joys of Prague but also wondering what on earth I could actually DO to help. I live so far away, hands on volunteering is not really an option right now. I started googling charities which support homeless people and came across the “Crisis at Christmas” appeal. I decided to do what I could at that moment in time and dontated to that, sharing a post about the appeal to Facebook has led to numerous other donations meaning that now, at least 12 people will have a roof over their heads at Christmas and ongoing help in 2020.
My brain is spinning with ideas as to how I can raise money alongside other running appeals for donations to help these people who so desperately need it. Whether they are on the street because of addiction issues, mental health issues, choice etc…. They all deserve a chance to live a happy life. Our elected government is what it is. We can’t change that. What we CAN change is how we treat other people. How we think about them, speak about them and the actions we take for them. I really want to do what I can do help.
I guess that helps with my goals for 2020… For me, there is definitely hygge in helping.