Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Are we as kind as we used to be?

Many years ago when i was still a teenager (under 16) i had just run away from home and found myself on the streets of central London.

While walking around Soho to look for somewhere to sleep i was stopped by a gentleman who asked if i knew where a certain road was, having this knowledge i then walked him to road he was looking for and he turned around and said thankyou and gave me £5 (which meant i was able to get hot food that day).

This story has always stuck with me narly 20 years on.

Which brings me to the present, On my recnt visit to th centre of the greatest city on the planet i found myself crossing the road to avoid getting myslf in eye-to-eye contact with people begging and sleeping rough.

Am i less kind than the gentleman that helped me? Maybe, but i did feel ashamed of myself deffently.


  1. I don't know about kind, but I think we are all more cynical than we used to be. I know that there are increasing numbers of homeless people and that there are also those who are professional beggars. I think you have to do what you can. I always buy the big issue, I give donations when I can to the food drive, and the soup kitchen. I at least feel that will help to support those in some small way. Are we less kind, I do so hope not.

  2. I would suggest that there is a difference between a young lad taking the trouble to lead someone to their intended destination, on the one hand, and someone who sits on the pavement begging, on the other.

    Never do I give anything to the second type.

    If it is not too personal, may I enquire what made you leave home at such an early age? Clearly it was a formative experience.

  3. It doesn't always work out so well. Around 1970, I showed a prosperous middle-aged couple from Texas the way to somewhere in South Kensington, and attentively made sure that they got to the right place. 'Thanks, sonny,' said the man, and handed me one of those pre-decimal twelve-sided threepenny bits.

    Gnashing my teeth slightly, I gave him a big smile and said, 'Oh no, I couldn't possibly accept that, it's my pleasure to help you,' and went my way. Which probably made their day; but not mine.

    To be fair, these goldy-looking coins, bigger than a modern pound coin, did look valuable.

    1. I used to get those wrapped up in greaseproof paper in my Christmas pudding. One could never have swallowed one accidentally. Nowadays elfin safety would disapprove.

  4. Some Geezer wot thinks you are not nearly as terrible a person as you seem to think you might be4 April 2012 at 11:51

    You're probably no different to most people, who would do the same thing if confronted by the sort of aggressive begging going on nowadays. One simply doesn't have the resources to help everyone without prejudice to oneself, even if one were inclined to help all such comers for such help. Many of those on the street are, sadly, people who would have been in Bedlam a few generations ago, and many are just dole recipients who, far from having no home, are just looking to scrounge up a little dosh since they've spent the cheque on habits of a non-healthful variety. One would need to be incredibly psychic to know the "real" down & outers (like your teenage self was) from the parasites and true misfortunates. And then there is, according to some people, the "Labourisation" effect-- most people have come to believe that, oh well, these people will ultimately be taken care of by the State, and since one little person like me can't really make much of a difference, then I'll just leave it to the people who can.
    Meaning no disrespect (I know, they ALL say that), perhaps there is something of the "innocent" in you that comes out when people deal with you, in a way that you do not sense when you're around those who are in the position you were in back in the 90's. It could be that, again, being that "innocent," you think, Oh I could so easily be taken advantage of, better do what Sister Mary Immaculate teaches Catholis-school children and avoid "near-occasions of sin." I'm sure you're one of the more kind people someone is liable to run across, broadly speaking, and I wouldn't lose too much sleep over it were I you.