Saturday, 21 January 2012

2 cups

I just tried to do a random act of kindness. I popped out for coffee. I live in town, I'm lucky I can leave my flat and get good coffee in a minute or two. I do it a few times a week, when I'm off from my day-job, and I'm writing at home. I get a take-away and bring it back to the flat and sit at my laptop and work on whatever I'm working on.

Today there was an obstacle on my short walk: a homeless man in an empty doorway. I did what I always do when I'm asked for change, which is say 'No, sorry,' and smile, and walk on, and wonder why this is my default reaction, to refuse, to say, 'No'.

Am I afraid of saying, 'Yes'? Would it be like crossing a line into some area that is uncharted? I can spare some change.

Why is there this fear to connect in some way? The reasons I'm coming up with, almost at the coffee shop now, is that maybe it feels too big, like a couple of coins couldn't change much in this man's life. Or that giving him money would highlight the difference in us, and essentially, highlight my own guilt. I'm in my warm coat going out to treat myself, essentially, to something I don't need.

But I don't want this fear to stop me from being able to connect with someone. If I can't spare the change - that's something else. But if I can, why don't I?

I decide to buy him a hot drink. A tea, I think, then no - hot chocolate. It seems more comforting. I feel good, a bit brave, like I've noticed a barrier and I'm taking it down.

Only when I come out, he's gone. In those 5 minutes he's moved on. I stand in the street with my 2 cups, looking around, I cross the road and check some other doorways, but he's not there.

This scene finishes with me, in my own doorway, looking at passers-by and making judgements about whether or not I think they deserve a free hot chocolate. I eventually make a decision - an old lady who isn't wearing gloves - she might appreciate holding the cup. But no, she doesn't want it. I feel a bit, well, a lot, deflated. I don't ask anyone else.

As much as a couple of coins can't be enough, then neither can a hot chocolate, but it felt like the start of something, a small act, a link, an out-of-nowhere thing.


Karen Jones said...

Had an almost identical experience in Glasgow last week. How odd.

Anonymous said...

Ah, a hot chocolate's nice in winter weather. I'm sure there'll be plenty more opportunities.

Teresa Stenson said...

Karen - that is odd. I like the idea of us wondering around with our 2 cups in different cities.

Hi Martha - there sure will be. Next time I might need to say, 'Stay there!' on my way past.