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yesterday, i found myself face to face with the very dilemma of what and how to give when we find ourself in front of one in need.
I walked passed a young man ( maybe 30 isn’t so young but anyway…) he was sitting on the pavement and it was starting to rain. So I stopped and asked him. “Have to got anywhere dry to sleep tonight.” We got talking and it turns out he was trying to beg enough to get into a hostel that he was in a arrears in. He needed 60 pounds to get back in and 35 for a weeks rent. I had 15 pounds in my pocket and my car was on red line needing gas. I gave him the 5 and kept the ten. As he went to put the money in his pocket a ventolin inhaler fell out. “hey, are you asthmatic” I asked him. “Yes. But I have run out this morning. The doctor wouldn’t give me a prescription because I have no address. They only gave me paracetamol.” So I asked him where he would be tomorrow ( yesterday). I took a number for his phone which had no credit and told him I would drop a ventolin inhaler round for him…I took back the 5 and give him the 10. Put 5 pound of gas in my car and made it home.
So yesterday morning I woke up and texted him. ‘Hi joseph. Did you stay dry last night?’ of course no answer ; no credit. So I called. He sounded pretty rough and told be he was very cold and outside the civic centre in Harrow. i told him to wait there and drove to find him. I took with me the ventolin and sleeping back a think sleeping mat some gloves a coat and 95 pounds to clear his arrears and get him some credit at the hostel. On the way there I phoned an outreach charity and explained I was trying to help someone from Portugal to get into a shelter. I said I wanted to pay forward for him to get somewhere to sleep and get rested. they told me.”We alway tell people to not give money.” and told me to pass their number on to him…
So when I arrived I found him and we sat for a while and talked. i told him i would get him some credit for his phone and wanted to help him get back into his hostel. i give him the ventolin an the other things. He took 4 puffs on the ventolin and said ” thank you have saved my life. this morning I couldn’t breath so badly. He said he needed 2 puffs an hour!!! At that moment I had to make a call. Do I give him the cash or not. So I made him promise he would go straight to the train then directly to the hostel and check in. No drugs and no booze. He started crying. “why does everyone think I am on drugs. I am clean. No one believes me.” I gave him the money. When I left him he begged me to stay saying..”Please. I just want someone to talk to…more than the money.” I gave him the outreach number and made him promise to call and I asked him to delete my number which he did, and I left him. Before I left he told me he had been in the church that afternoon praying for my mum.! ( I had told him the day before that she had just come out of hospital from an operation.) Every step of the way I was asking myself..How much is enough to make a difference. A cup of tea might have been. As I drove away I though’ “You know what Burgs, if he had bought booze then he was always going to do that each time someone gave him anything. But in the end, that maybe what it took to ease his pain just for a while. But somehow inside, I felt..he was a good kid, genuinely down on his luck. Bless him.