Jamie and I are very lucky to love and be loved by friends and family. This year, we wanted to extend our giving at Christmas and started a new tradition. We shopped, we cooked and we assembled Christmas packs which we delivered to the homeless throughout Melbourne city.
It was a beautiful experience as we took time to talk with those whose luck in no way mirrored our own. Conversations were warm and gratitude was deep – us for what we learned and from those who we chanced to meet. Some were quiet and wanted only to enjoy a short conversation and graciously accept the parcel from us, others shared a little more of their story with us:
- Jodie and Shadow, the 8 year old Staffy at the top of Bourke Street Mall – who shared with us the best places to find those who might need assistance the most.
- Scott, who was full of despair when we encountered him. His hoodie hid the most terrible of physical scars but no doubt the emotional scars were worse. Scott opened his burrito as soon as we left and gave us a double thumbs-up of enthusiasm, as we ventured onwards. His smile is one that won’t be forgotten.
- Andy and Wooly, the 9 year old Maltese, who was conservative with his words but was warm and friendly in his response;
- And, James – whose first words to us was that he had started the day hopeful but by the time we met him, said he was feeling a tremendous amount of despair. It was with James we spent the most amount of time, sitting with him and simply allowing him to speak and to be heard. Gifting James accommodation was met with the biggest smile and hugs and, if only for a short time, restored some hope for him.
Lessons we learned
Everyone we met and spoke with was extraordinarily polite. Incredibly so. This contrasted so strikingly with the rudeness or lack of care we’re so often faced with in day to day life. Perhaps this politeness stemmed from different reasons from each individual we met but whatever the case, it was a common trait in everyone we met.
The day also highlighted the importance of gratitude. Not just from those we met but how important gratitude is from each of us on a daily basis. Many of us so often wish for things that provide a level or prestige or social status but often the idea of these things can cause us to forget the importance of simple things. It really is the simple things we should be most grateful for: a place to call home, power in our home, food in the fridge and love in our hearts. We experienced deep gratitude today, from within and from those we met.
On a practical level, we learned how to ease the discomfort of the homeless. We researched items to include in our care pack and strived to include a mixture of care and comfort items, as well as some ‘luxury’ items to celebrate Christmas. Our packs included:
- a home-cooked, tasty and nutritious burrito to provide a filling lunch;
- additional food items to complete the Christmas lunch: a piece of Christmas cake, a chocolate, soft jubes and a bottle of water;
- essentials of a toothbrush, toothpaste, band-aids and tissues;
- pet packs for cats and dogs consisting of dry and wet food; and
- for some, we were able to gift a night’s accommodation at the local shelter, which was met with the biggest of smiles and hugs.
We learned that for many, a night’s accommodation in a shelter is most sought after. In Melbourne city, this ranges from around $48 – $50 per night. And, non-perishable food items are preferred. Buckets of noodles, which can be ‘cooked’ using hot water from a 7-eleven are a filling meal.
We also learned that not one person accepted an item from us unless they felt they could benefit from it and it would not be wasted. James was feeling particularly lucky as he had two rolls of deodorant, a number of packets of noodles, some water and a full belly. He simply could not accept our comfort pack but instead was overwhelmed when we could provide him with shelter accommodation.
Spending our day in the city was one which left our feet tired but our hearts are full. We know that this will not only become a Christmas tradition, but one we include regularly throughout the year.