I really hate wasting food. However I am horrendous for buying lots of heathy vegetables and salad materials, and fail to learn that these things very quickly perish. I buy them with good intentions, but there just aren’t enough meals in the day to eat them all before they go bad. The bonus since we have animals is that dogs, chickens and ducks pretty much eat anything. I feel far less guilty chopping up 5 day old limp salad and feeding it to my egg laying feathery friends, than I would chucking it in the bin. It’s not just at home, my eyes are far bigger than my belly and I have been known to order too much food when I’m out. I will often request a doggy bag (although my dogs rarely see the contents of this!) and have been known to enjoy left over curry and chinese, can’t beat it.
Last year I attended a friend’s baby shower, which was extremely well organised with a fab spread of party food, my favourite. Sandwiches cut into triangles, chicken nuggets, slices of pizza, crisps, biscuits, cupcakes, the lot. Despite the fact there were pregnant ladies and me in attendance, there was still a ton of food left over by the time the baby shower finished. As everyone left we were trying to encourage people to take home the food, but no-one was interested. Obviously I did not want the food to go to waste so thought I’d ring round some homeless shelters to see if they would take the trays of untouched food. It was a saturday, so a lot of the numbers I called weren’t answered, but eventually someone did pick up. I explained the situation and said I’d be happy to drop it round, but I was told thanks very much but they couldn’t accept our generous offer for health and safety reasons. I’m sorry, what? There are homeless people, who are struggling for a bed to sleep in, often have to beg on the street to survive, who would surely love a cold slice of pizza and cup cake with a pram on? But you won’t let them because I haven’t taken my basic food hygiene certificate? Now I understand that there is a slight possibility that we could’ve used rat poison to cook with, you know it’s easy to mix that up with baking powder….but surely the benefits of feeding the hungry for free out weigh the ridiculous possibility that we might cause a potential tummy upset? I was shocked. Was I really going to have to chuck this perfectly edible food in the bin? Luckily, no. I’m a bit of a stubborn cow and decided to continue ringing round hoping that someone would take our neglected buffet off our hands. Eventually I got through to another local homeless charity, they said they’d love to accept our generous offer and I dropped off 5 trays of yummy snacks, knowing that a few people’s shitty day would’ve been slightly improved by a handful of party rings and some cheese and pickle sandwiches.
Apart from the health and safety Nazi’s it was surprisingly simple to donate to a homeless shelter and I would recommend anyone to do it. I think as a society it’s easy to ignore these people and pretend they don’t exist. But it’s something that could happen to anyone, following any sort of set of unfortunate circumstances. My dad, a man with two degrees, had a great job, a detached house and a family. He suffered with alcoholism and went from having everything, to living in a YMCA. I remember writing letters to him there. Everyone knows the song right? “It’s fun to stay at the YMCA” *does letter arm actions*. But, in reality it’s not fun. Don’t get me wrong, the work they do is amazing and they help thousands of people find accommodation, work and provide support and advice. But you have to be in a bad place to end up there, let alone any of the other homeless charities, or worse, the streets.
Last week on social media, a girl walked past a homeless man. Instead of ignoring him and walking by, she bought him food and gave him some of her time. She listened to his story which inspired a facebook post. That facebook post was liked by over 160,000 people and shared over 50,000 times. Her post alone has raised awareness, money for charity and has changed that man’s life. That is the power of social media for you. But it really is that simple. If everyone just had a second thought about that person in a sleeping bag begging for money, then our society would be a better place. Now there are always going to be cynics, but do you really think they’d be there, on the streets if they wanted to? A lot of them struggle to find beds in shelters, particularly those that have dogs with them for company, are often not let into shelters. Being an animal lover myself, my heart breaks because I know I wouldn’t sacrifice the companionship of a dog, as it is probably one of the only things that keeps them going. That gives them hope. We, us sat on our computers or smart phones reading this, are so lucky. It’s easy to forget how we take for granted the comforts of a roof over our heads, food in the fridge and money in our pockets. A lot of these people just need a chance, a bit of luck and some kindness to give them the help to improve their lives. Whether that’s some food and a cup of tea, a new sleeping bag, a blanket, a set of warm socks or a jacket. How many of us have these things that we probably don’t use or that could be put to better use? That facebook story has inspired me to do more. My dad was a somebody, he had a family, children and friends who loved him. But an unfortunate set of circumstances, mental health issues and an addiction changed all that. I just want you all to think twice about that person you pass on the street and give them a second thought. Could you make a difference? I believe everyone deserves a second chance. Everyone deserves to be noticed.