Friday, 24 April 2009

Trip to the Post Office

I went to the post office the other day. I have to psyche myself up for a visit, because it's such a stress to go with kids. I have to go when Keiran is at preschool and Naomi has just been fed, preferably asleep. I have to be feeling completely well, no headache or pain of any kind and I have to make sure I've no time constraints, because I could be waiting for a while and at the end of the wait I could have to deal with a person who has no idea what to do. I know this because it's happened. So the other day I made sure Naomi was clean and fed, Keiran was off at school, I was fortified with some paracetamol and codeine and off I went. Preparation is the key and the whole thing went off okay. I had to queue twice (once to buy the envelopes and other stationery I needed, once to pay for the postage) and it took me about 45 minutes but at least the person serving me knew pretty much what he was doing.

On my way to the post office there's a place where you can find out about volunteering in the local community called WAVS and I made a mental note to check it out. I'd been thinking about volunteering to help out elderly folk who might find it difficult to go to the shops or maybe just need someone to chat with every now and then. I had a read of some information in the window then set off back home to think about it. I was ruminating over whether I could commit time to it, would I be able to take Naomi along, it would be a great thing to do...

...when a man came up to me quite abruptly and said "you couldn't spare us something to eat could you, I'm starving."

I stopped and said "pardon?" even though I was pretty sure I'd heard him the first time. In the time it took for him to repeat himself my mind raced. I've got absolulely nothing to give him. He's seen my Waitrose shopping bag, I'm chewing on a sweet, he probably thinks I've been to the supermarket. If I had anything to give him I would have, but I had no money and no food. I thought, oh I could invite him back to the house, make him a meal. No, not sensible, is there anywhere I can suggest for him to get a meal? I've no idea... what actually came out of my mouth was quite different.

"No, sorry." And I didn't even stop walking.

As I walked away I felt like the biggest hypocrite on earth. Here was I congratulating myself on thinking about volunteering in the community yet when someone walked directly to me asking for help I don't even stop. I told myself I had Naomi with me, it wasn't practical for me to do anything, well at least I'd thought about it... but that's little comfort to the man, who walked off probably feeling terrible. He must have been in a pretty bad way to be begging like that and he got no sympathy or help from me at all. I wished I had said something different. I wished I had been to the supermarket, then I could have given him something. I hope he did get something to eat in the end. I hope he met a better person than me. I also wondered whether, with the economic situation being so dire, there would be more people like him in the future. Perhaps I could be more prepared to help someone who asks next time. I'll make sure I have a coin or three, find out where a hungry person can get a meal, be in less of a hurry to get home, less embarrassed by someone asking me for help. Hopefully.

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