Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Rarity of Kindness: A rough sleeper in Wales

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There's a lot of homeless people in Cardiff. I'd usually give change to the homeless man outside Greggs, or wish I could do more for them so they could have warm drinks on biting days and clean water on muggy summer afternoons. I admit that on occasion I have found myself unnerved by some, but generally speaking I'm far more uneasy about the drunken middle aged men stalking the dimly lit road of Schooner Way.

Yet, they are probably better off in Cardiff. A place with higher footfall, diverse population and a slight whiff of charitable understanding. Their odds are better here. If you've been a reader of my blog for a while, you'll know that this kind of issue pulls at my conscience. When I came back from New York in January 2013 I did not write travel blogs, I wrote one singular article about the homeless.

It could just as easily be me.

You would think that in a small village where everyone knows each other that they would bind together to show mercy to a stranger who had quite literally, appeared from no where.

It could just as easily be you.

So here's what happened.

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There is a grand disillusion about living in a small seaside village, in Pembrokeshire. This is where my family lives and works, and where I find myself more often that I would like. While someone in my mother's cafe sips a cappuccino and admits proudly that they would pack it all up and live there, I tell them not to. 

I'm not one for humouring, and I'm not one for falsities. This is the truth, and it's more than sad. Near enough every single person is out for themselves, and they exist in a sour bubble of pretension. They may not be against you, but they keep you at arm's length. People you see everyday will ignore you if you say a polite "Good morning" and they will watch you as you pass them by.

It's a pretty place, inhabited by not so pretty minds. Apart from that one elderly woman, who quite frankly is the best person you will ever meet in that village. She has no one, she doesn't ask for anything, and she is not spoken to. She has lived in Little Haven her entire life, yet when she has little to give no one cares to even make conversation with her. I take her Magnums or mugs of tea because I can't watch her sit alone.

Approximately two weeks ago, a man with bedraggled hair and grubby skin peered around the door of my mother's cafe. I was slightly uneasy at the time, thinking he was another strange tourist. If you have ever worked in hospitality, you have learned to be wary of nearly every single pair of sandals and socks that walks through the door.

It turned out he is homeless, and makes his way between the villages. He carries around old supermarket bags but he doesn't sit and beg for change. He was caught rifling through one of the bins for food one day, and on that day my mother took the sandwich she had made for my dad and went to find him.
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Since then, locals have complained to the police about his presence in the village. He hasn't said a word unless spoken to, and he is not disruptive. The police even asked my mother why she gave him food. 

The thing about my mother and I, is we take in strays. I take in cats with amputated tails and tilted heads and she apparently has a fondness of people. 

On Monday morning, I caught a glimpse of her running up the street again. As she made her way past one of the pubs, one whispered to another. One of them then said "Feeding him are you?" to which she replied "Yes, and?" At first, he refused her gesture. He was adamant he would not take from her. She told him it was only something to eat, and it was only a hot cup of coffee. He told her in return he would sweep her porch in the night. In an act of preserving his pride, she accepted the offer.

This is someone who had nothing to give, but wanted to give back to someone who had shared an act of generosity. 

On her way back, she was asked by the same person why she would do it. She was told, "You're a better woman than I am." She didn't do it for recognition, or for the karma. She did it because it could easily be me, or my sister. And if it were, she would hope there would be someone to help us.

He is down on his luck. He has history, he has heartaches and he has mountains to climb. He has miles to go before he can work his way up from rock bottom. People need to think before they whisper, to reconsider the sly digs and the narrow hesitance to show kindness. It takes small deeds to do big things. Something small is something monumental in the eyes of those who need it.
Source: WeHeartIt
If you are in a position to do good for another then you should do it, because if someone you loved was dealt their misfortune, wouldn't you want them to feel the warmth of an extended hand of kindness? What have you lost? What little will you lose by showing kindness?

At this time, a street count of rough sleepers and the homeless is not done in Wales. The only reference we have are stories like these, and the shadowed faces we find in unlikely places.

You never know where you will be one day, or where you won't be.