It is interesting that I read an article the morning after my husband, daughter and I went to help feed some homeless people last night in Spring Hill Brisbane Queensland. About 100-200 people get fed twice a week. It is organised by a group of caring individuals from around Brisbane. Such simple things like a cup of tea, a sandwich, a piece of cake…. bring so much pleasure and meaning to homeless people, who come from all walks of life.
Whilst volunteering with The Sycamore Tree Project in a Queensland Prison, I met prisoners, who had been business professionals on the outside. They were well-spoken and educated. They were serving time behind bars because they made a stupid mistake like drinking/drug use and then driving or drinking and then throwing a punch in anger. Then in the blink of an eye their lives changed forever. Some of them had lost their source of employment, their home, their family and the respect and place within their community. Often their first place of residence on the outside is a homeless shelter.
We all know that it doesn’t require alcohol or drugs for an accident to occur. No matter how sorry we might be, we are held responsible for our actions. Some time ago a family member of mine witnessed the death of a small child by a woman who mistakenly accelerated forward out of a shopping centre car parking space instead of reversing out and therefore running over the child who was walking with her mother to their own car.
The article I read talks about ‘moving toward’ people. I know that ‘moving toward’ people can take as little as a second of our time – to smile, say hello, nod your head, eye contact as you are passing people in the street or at the shopping centre or waiting in line at the checkout. Simply acknowledging that they are there. In as little as one second you can say to someone “I acknowledge you as a fellow human being.”
We don’t know what people have had to deal with in their lives. I remember many years ago when I was working as a customer service officer. Every day an unassuming elderly man came into the bank to collect bank statements etc. (pre-online banking days!). One day I took the time to ask him what work he did when he was younger. He told me, in his quiet polite manner, that he was a war veteran. He became an alcoholic on his return from WWII. His family had then disowned him and he became homeless. Eventually, he managed to improve his life a little. The company, the bank’s customer, gave him a helping hand by employing him to collect the mail for them. Just a simple act for the company but it was a life line for the elderly gentleman.
I attend a church in the city centre and often we have strangers wander in from the city square next door. It’s the cup of coffee and a simple meal that provides opportunity to listen, have a chat and hopefully see them smile and laugh. There are many good people out there who are not homeless, but have just had a bad turn of events happen in their lives. They may have been abused, physically, financially or emotionally. They may not have coped well after having lost a dearly loved one. I have seen how ‘moving toward’ people in these simple ways can be life changing for them.
But anyone can benefit from ‘moving toward’ behaviour. Even successful business professionals have bad things happen to them. We rush by people every day who look great on the outside but may be shattered by some event that has happened in their life. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us have been there.
The article mentions how ‘moving toward’ behaviour creates the momentum of further ‘moving toward’ behaviour. “Several examples will illustrate this: a smile will lead to a smile in return; holding a door open will lead to the next door being held open; a simple hello … will prompt a hello to another person.” There are times when the receiver does not respond. It’s not about getting it’s about giving. Simple stuff really, but so easily forgotten in the rush of our busy lifestyles.