The weather was so nice this evening that I decided to take a solo stroll around Melbourne City. I went in and out a few stores and then sat on a bench on Bourke Street and watched the world go by for a bit. A homeless man asked the person next to me for change and he was refused. He skipped me for some reason and asked the two Asian girls to my right if they had any, to be honest I was insulted. After the girls refused him as well he swore at nobody in particular, stumbled and then walked off down the street but not before he stopped at the public drinking fountain on the sidewalk and elegantly took a sip of water being careful not to get it down himself and went on his way. How about that? Perfectly good drinking water in the middle of the city for everybody to use and its free! About 10 minutes after him a lady stepped toward the drinking fountain dressed in an expensive looking black suit, sky scraper heels and more make-up than Boy George and took a sip. I wondered if she would have done that if she knew who had used the same fountain only moments before her. Thats when I realised I was thinking like a South African. How wonderful is this country with its classless society and it’s free, drinkable water on every corner? My mind went on a tangent then and I thought about how homeless are you really when you live in a great climate with free healthcare and education and free drinking water in the middle of the city? A country with active human rights is not to be scoffed at.
This train of thought took me back to 6 years ago when I was in a similar situation in Cape Town CBD. I was waiting for a bus outside the Golden Acre and watched how a homeless street kid who couldn’t have been more that 11 years old walked up to the trash can in front of the bus shelter and pulled out a bag of half eaten fries and began to munch on them. I winced a little…surprisingly not because they came out of the trash but because I knew they would be cold. He didn’t finish the bag but instead of just throwing it back in, he carefully placed them on the inner lip of the steel bin, crossed the street and disappeared around the corner. Weird, I thought. About 5 minutes later another kid walked up to the bin, peered in and reached for the fries. He had a couple of mouthfuls and he did exactly the same thing. Wow. These kids were purposely leaving them in such a way so that when the next person came looking for something to eat it would be ready for them. The attitude of ‘we’re all in this together’ was evitable.
It really is those small acts of thoughtfulness and kindess that can turn your average day into a great day, restores ones faith in humanity or in extreme cases, stop someone from ending it all. Maybe you have to really be at your lowest eb to notice how much good there is. Like when you’re on a budget and you can’t go out for dinner all the time and become amazed at what you are able to produce yourself through limited means. The big moments in life are wonderful but I so often think about how selfless those moments really are. Like when you buy something huge for someone or cook them their favourite meal, it’s also about you getting the credit and feeling good about yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on grand gestures I’m just making an observation.
When you think about things that have made a difference in your day they seem almost too insignificant to mention because the person doing it is not looking for praise because they are acting through their sub conscious. Like when you’re trying to switch lanes on the freeway and someone lets you in, or when you’re snowed under at work and someone gets the phone for you. Or sometimes my girlfriends will find something when they’re shopping on the internet and send me a link with ‘this is so you!’ in the subject line…more often than not it is definitely NOT so me but I love that I am on their mind. Think about those days when a stranger holds the lift for you or opens the door for you when you’re arms are full. It’s those tiny, and almost immediately once they have happened overlooked things that show us that there really is good in everybody when we momentarily forget ourselves.
Sometimes those grand gestures, those feasts that cost loads of money will still leave you feeling peckish and wanting to stop in at KFC on the way home. But if we kept count of how many free drinking fountains we came across and how many packets of fries that are left perfectly hidden in the secret part of the trash for us to find, we might discover that we will almost always feel sated and quenched.