Saturday, 22 December 2007

The importance of eye contact

Most work Christmas parties are now over. Lots of us will now be set to spend time with family and friends over the holiday season. Last week, on the way home from my Christmas party I gave some money to a young man - lets say Adam - who is (presumably still) homeless and then spent some time talking to him in central London as he shivered by the cash machine.

Adam was grateful for the money, and even more grateful for the time I spent talking to him and making him feel 'worth something'. He told me it is always hard being homeless, physically more so at winter, and it is hard emotionally at Christmas because it is a particular reminder of what you do not have. As Adam sat there asking for some loose change, thousands of people were having a fantastic time. 'Begging' he said made him feel awful, disgusting and embarrassed.

We said goodbye, me offering to pay for a hostel, Adam saying it was too late that night, he would love the cash for the following night and a drunken 'well wisher' told me i was a ******* mug for giving the money - it would after all 'only go on special brew'. As i walked away it was me that felt awful, because what Adam, like we all, want is people who take the time to talk, people who take the time to notice and people who show us respect.

You don't have to be homeless to want time and company. So much happiness comes from human contact and our relationships. Lots of people will be sad and lonely this Christmas. Giving money and time to help others is important, spending time with friends and family is too - before meeting Adam my challenge to myself was to do both properly this Christmas. After meeting Adam I added one more thing to my list - don't pretend that people sat by the cash machine don't exist - make eye contact and if they want a conversation, have one. It means a lot - often more than we think.

1 comment:

jrfiction said...

I wonder if that well wisher remembers the parable of the good Samaritan? Good for you Simon. The good Samaritan also taught me that it's just as important to walk away after your act of charity, and let things take their course with out any emotional attachment. This frees us to be available to support others, and allows those in need the space for reflection. Let's hope Adam found some warmth.

Merry Christmas Simon.