You always have something to give, even when you think you don’t

Last weekend I was doing my weekly shop at a supermarket and whilst waiting for the bus home, I noticed a homeless man sitting in a nearby alley. 

I had stopped giving to people on the streets some years ago when my cynicism kicked when I wasn’t sure if I was really giving to someone who genuinely needed help.

In the past, I would sometimes give money or food, once I helped a girl who told me through tears that she was trying to find her friends and needed money to get in touch with them. I didn’t know if she was lying or telling the truth.

Another time, I sat and listened to a lonely man on the tube desperate to talk to anyone who would listen to him recount stories of his mother who had passed away recently. He was so grateful he bought me a coffee afterwards. 

Looking back I realise how much life has hardened me. I was naïve and sometimes ended up in uncomfortable situations but my kindness was freer and less judgemental. Years of hearing stories about dishonesty and experiencing it first-hand can wear your kindness down even though it shouldn't.

Laden with my shopping I was suddenly aware that people living on the streets were now acceptable to me and the homeless had become invisible. Not just to me but many others on that day, except one lady and a father with his child. I watched as a lady handed the homeless man a bottle of water on this hot day and sat down to talk to him.

A father also waiting for a bus, handed his child some change to give to the gentleman. The child was initially too shy but eventually found the courage to run over to put the change in his cup. 

I watched the lady and the gentleman chatting to each other until my bus came. Watching them I realised how many things had become invisible to me. I had walked past another homeless man the day before.

There are many studies that show giving is good for our wellbeing and health but no one truly gives to be healthy. You give from the inside, you give with your soul, you give because you see someone needs help and you are not doing it for a thank you.

When we live in cities and towns where there isn’t a strong sense of community, neighbours, and people you come across can be strangers with whom you avoid eye contact. This is when mindfulness and giving are important. 

Like the father pointing out the homeless man to his child at the bus stop, we need to see things and help children see things. We need to see beyond ourselves and our own issues.

We can’t all be like Mother Teresa. Not all of us can change the world and it's not healthy to worry about everything terrible going on but we can give up our seat to someone who looks tired, hold a door open, volunteer, make a donation, and ask someone if they are ok even if you don’t know them.

We can try to make a difference with one smile, one gesture, one pound and one small act of kindness at a time.

As Mother Teresa once said:

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.

Giving is one of the key five steps to Mental Wellbeing and studies have shown that it can make us feel happier and more satisfied about life. Find out more in our blog post on giving and wellbeing?


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