Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Why didn't I help?

I went Christmas shopping with my son yesterday & we stopped off for a bit of lunch at a fast food place. As we sat there together eating our food I noticed a man a couple of tables over.He was balding, with untidy grey hair and I noticed his hands were dirty. As I looked more closely ( trying not to be caught staring) I realised he must be a homeless man. He was nursing a coffee and had 3 bags stuffed with all sorts of things.

Now, yesterday it was freezing - literally freezing. As I sat there eating my fries and orange juice, my quarter pounder with cheese, I wanted to help him somehow. The only trouble was I didn't know how to help. I considered going over and asking him if he was hungry and if I could get him something to eat. I thought about asking one of the staff there if they knew him and if so was he homeless and what did he like to eat.

The thing is though, I was worried about offending him. What if he wasn't homeless and I went along assuming he was just because he had 3 bags and his hands were dirty? What if he was homeless, but a bit mad? What if he got angry?



While I was considering all these options he gathered his things together and stood up to leave the restaurant. Again I thought I could stop him as he passed me. But I didn't. I watched him through the glass as he donned his hat and gloves and set off into the cold.

I know he was homeless and I know he hadn't eaten. I could have bought him something hot to eat. I could have talked to him. But I didn't. I feel very disappointed in myself that I didn't have the guts to talk to him. As I sit here in my warm house, so blessed in every way, I know he is somewhere out in the cold night. I should have done something for him.

14 comments:

Lo said...

Sob.
Yes, you shoulda. But there will be a next time......if you get another chance, do try to tell your ego and your possible embarrassment to shut up and just do the good thing.

We hav e all been there.
You can be proud for writing this post.

Sarah said...

Thanks Lo. It feels horrible to admit my failure and my weakness. Next time I will try to do the right thing. Feel so cross with myself. x

Razmataz said...

I disagree with Lo. You have no real proof that he was homeless. He had a hat, coat, gloves and a coffee and dirty hands, which are also signs he may not be. It could have been very offensive to him if you offered him money or food and he was just a dirty man. It's different if you see them on the street, but to awkward in this situation. You didn;t have the information to make an informed decision. Throw some money to the Salvation Army as they are better equipped to know who needs help. I think you did the right thing.

Razmataz said...

I had something to add....if you were sitting near him and could strike up a conversation, you could have gauged what he all about. Often homeless have social issues and don't like people to make contact.

There was a woman in my neighborhood who pushed a shopping cart around full of bags. She was untidy and dirty. We all assumed she was homeless. I heard later that she was actually quite well off but wandered the town looking for stuff because she suffered a mental illness.

sarah at secret housewife said...

Thanks Chania.x

Urban Cynic said...

A similar thing happened to me a month or so ago. I was taking a fast morning walk along the seafront when I saw a woman crying up ahead, I couldn't work out if she was crying at first so I kept going, then I saw she was.

So instead of going over to ask if she was ok, I kept walking whilst I thought about it - until it was too late and I'd walked past.

I felt disgusted with myself so vowed to ask if she was still there when I came back 15 mins later. She wasn't

It was still on my mind 2 days later and I did not feel at all good about myself. What a shitheel. So then I decided that if I saw someone crying like that again, or in any similar situation, I would help them the next time.

Maybe give £5 or a sandwich to the next homeless person you see to 'make up for it'

sarah at secret housewife said...

I know just how you feel. Its awful isn't it? I always think I am a person who acts rather than watches, but maybe I'm wrong. Still, at least we realise where we have gone a bit wrong and we want to act differently next time. x

Nicki said...

I am a "go-with-your-gut" kind of a person. Sometimes, my gut says to help and it speaks loudly enough to push my into motion and help. Other times, I have some doubt and I have to believe that there is SOME reason that I may never know that helping at that time wasn't the right thing to do. You sound like the kind of person who does help at times or you wouldn't be beating yourself up now. You followed your gut to stay put. Must have been a reason for it. If help was truly needed, I suspect you would have acted differently. Trust yourself.

Caz said...

I'm like you, Sarah, I um and ah until it's too late and then dwell on it later. Don't be hard on yourself - yes, you could've embarrassed him and yes, he could've been mad for all you know. We once did the same thing while on a picnic - we saw a homeless man and we decided to give him a big chunk of our bun and some bananas and do you know what he did? He came over and said he was allergic to carbs and would prefer some money!!!!!!! Don't be hard on yourself, send your regret out into the universe and next time you'll be able to hear your instinct more clearly. P.S. I LOVE your new profile picture - very pretty. XXX

Caz said...

P.P.S I agree with Nicki - you ARE a helpful, caring person, I know that just from reading your blog. You ARE a good person and your instincts at the time must've been right for a reason! XXX

Inkling said...

Sarah, I totally believe that you'll get another chance to help - maybe this man, maybe somebody sent in his place. I had a moment like that with my son earlier this year. I wasn't sure if he was homeless or in need, though he certainly looked like it. In the end, I went over to him and offered him the rest of the meal (untouched) that I had had to order to get my son the one chicken strip he wanted. There have been other times when I haven't helped and have felt gutted by it afterward, and of course, there have been times when I've said no simply because I couldn't help. It's a hard balance to know when to step in, how to step in, and what exactly to offer.

Annie said...

I did it once. I'd just bought lunch from Boots: sarnie, drink, crisps & saw a homeless woman with a trolly full of stuffed bags and tat. I offered her my lunch: feeling bad - and she came out with a MASSIVE tirade of abuse. I won't do it again. You never know what the outcome might have been. So don't beat yourself up about it. Annie xx

Annie said...

AND AND! I (just remembered this!) once (pissed) offered a street beggar a McDonalds meal I'd just bought. He looked at me in a disapproving manner and declined as he was a vegetarian!!! Oops.

sarah at secret housewife said...

Hi Nicki, Caz, Inkling and Annie. Thanks for your comments.I think you are right about going with one's instinct, Nicki.I am a great believer in that.Its interesting to see that we have all had experiences in this area and its not clear cut. I suppose you just have to do what feels right at the time.

Lovely to hear from you Annie. Are you still running?? I am turning into a blob!! But a blob with good intentions!!

Sarah xx