I’m going to tell you about something I did yesterday that gave me an idea. It’s a simple one, nothing to change the world, but because it’s simple I hope it’s one you’ll consider.
Yesterday I found a pair of gloves in a coat I haven’t worn since last winter. Like I suspect most men, I consider my pockets adequate replacements for gloves, so since I was walking to a GO train only to walk to my car after I didn’t bother putting them on. I put them back in my pocket until I was about halfway to Union station, and I thought of somewhere better to put them. I put them into the hands of a homeless man.
Walking along the Esplanade towards my train, I remembered this week I’d seen a homeless man set up in the same spot on my way. The gloves weren’t a sentimental gift, overly expensive, and truth told I preferred my wool Olympic mitts. I knew I wouldn’t miss them any more than I truly needed them. So I decided I would ask him if he’d like them.
I spotted his small sidewalk encampment and walked towards it. I found myself nervous. I wondered if my offer would be well received, if I’d find someone mentally ill and in crisis, or if he wouldn’t be there at all and I’d lose my nerve to try again.
Luckily, though I doubt he felt fortunate to be so, he was there. As I walked towards him fate smiled again. He reached to light a cigarette which he held like his lighter, in a bare hand.
I walked up to him and simply asked if he wanted a pair of gloves. He said thanks, taking them with a smile that was equal parts surprise and gratitude. I smiled back, turned around and headed for my train.
I’ve given change to homeless people before. I’ve volunteered or donated to charity and felt the satisfaction one does doing good. This was different.
I felt I’d shared something rather than given it away. Maybe it was simpler than that. Maybe a guy with a lot of problems to face each day has one less now because he has a pair of gloves. I felt warm in a way I hope he does right now.
It’s a feeling I want you to have too. If you’re reading this odds are good you have an extra pair of gloves, a toque, maybe even an old pair of boots. You could donate them to any number of agencies, and good for you if you do.
If you’re up for it, instead of outsourcing kindness you could give them directly to someone in need.
The brief human connection you share might be something someone needs every bit as much as a pair of gloves. It might leave you feeling good enough to tell a friend, and maybe they’ll find a pair of gloves and someone who needs them too.
Like I said, a simple idea. It won’t end poverty, homelessness or bring about drastic change in how we treat mental health issues. Just help a few people keep warm, and remind them there are people who care.
Not an idea meant to change the world. Which doesn’t mean it won’t change someone’s, maybe even yours.