Some times it feels like everyone is after our hard earned cash. We all have a multitude of friends on social media who are running/ swimming/biking/hiking /fasting/baking for an equally diverse number of charities and worthy causes. These requests rest alongside saturation levels of advertising from every business imploring us to buy!!
It almost feels as if you cannot participate in an event without justifying it through fundraising nowadays - it seems we might have forgotten that it is legitimate to run a marathon, or go for a coastal ride just for the sake of it.
Before your breath of outrage - this isn't to say that there aren't people who would not normally run 42.2, 21.1, 10 or 5 kilometres, or swim across a river, or hike a mountain, and push themselves to achieve something monumental in support of a cause that is truly close to their heart...there are many such people, I applaud, support and admire them.
But due to the current state of affairs those worthy causes are endless - for good reason we (collectively) want to find a cure for cancer, and every other illness that afflicts us and those we love, save the planet and the wondrous plants and creatures that fill it, prevent cruelty to animals, protect the wilderness, save children in war torn areas, support those currently suffering due to drought, storms, hurricanes, bush-fires,and tsumanis. We NEED to fundraise to secure clean water for those without this basic human right, for new school equipment and resources, to keep a local sporting groups/youth groups/support groups going, to prevent suicide, to assist refugees, to provide education for girls in impoverished nations, to provide for our returned service men and women and their families, to stop human trafficking and other human right violations, to feed and provide medical aide for the multitudes fleeing war, corrupt states, terrorism and famine.
This is by no means an exhaustive list - but it is an exhausting one.
Each one of these causes is invaluable and will rate with differing levels of priority for anyone reading it.
And now we also have a medium that allows people to reach out to the wider community for financial aide for far more personal reasons - a quick look at GoFundMe indicates that anyone can seek help for anything from urgently needed but not government funded medical equipment and medicine, funeral expenses when a loved one is lost suddenly and unexpectedly, expensive surgery for pets to cosmetic surgery and desired holidays. There are also opportunities for start ups and social enterprise organisations to showcase their wares - and gain much needed financial support.
So, why am I asking you to donate to Pup and Girl, or directly to organisations that assist people experiencing homelessness, or indeed straight into the hands of those in need?
Because it is a cause that is entirely and impossibly important to me...and because it is a cause that is overlooked, underfunded and sometimes derided, but one that can be impacted by only a little money; you can have an enormous impact on a fellow human - a little kindness can make an unbearable situation a easier for more than a moment, and a little respect can change lives.
The first time I became aware that there were people living on the streets I was nearly nine years old, in London and walking unfamiliar streets in the freezing cold, looking wide-eyed at the huddled humans shivering under salvaged cardboard, newspaper, rags and tattered blankets, slumped in doorways and alleyways - trying to stay warm and dry, never quite looking up at us as we wandered past. My heart broke, and I actually cried for each of the people we passed. I wanted to take them all home to Australia, not realising yet that homelessness is an issue here too.
I'm not 100% sure but I think this was probably 'the' moment that brought social justice to my life.
Now, aside from deeply personal reasons, I plan to complete this ridiculously long run next year for the homeless who have touched my life in other ways:
- For the old man who stayed by my side late one night in the city while I waited for my very late ride home, who was deaf like me...who had nearly drowned as a child and had been living on the streets on and off his whole adult life.
- For the skeletal, young indigenous man who asked for some coins while I was walking to work - who cried when I gave him my gloves because his hands were so cold.
- For the man who looked like Santa Claus and slept out the front of the Adelaide City train station at night, so that he could sleep soundly knowing that the Casino security guards would not let him come to harm.
- For the very drunk, very wild young man who let me get close enough to see that he needed medical attention but was too embarrassed about being unwashed to go to the doctor - but let me wash his wound and bandage it.
- For man who slept behind the library while we renovated it - who is the first and only man to ever actually ask me to be his Valentine on Valentine's Day, who had been homeless since is adolescence when his family emigrated and left him behind.
- For the woman weeping in a door way early one morning, who did not want to talk
- For the man who indulged me in a chat about the crazy eyebrow trends despite my accidentally tripping over his belongings while he searched a bin for food and treasures.
- For the Williams living on the streets, who love to read and debate a great novel
- For the young, tiny unconscious man ignored by half a dozen commuters waiting for a bus - despite being at risk of being run over.
I will be eternally grateful should you chose to donate to Pup and Girl, or offer your support in any other way....but I will love you forever if you challenge any lurking preconceived ideas your subconscious might be harbouring about how homelessness occurs or any unconscious bias about those who experience it.
Homelessness can happen to anyone - and its a damn hard road to walk, made harder by the unkindness of strangers.
If you have reservations about giving to people who beg, take a read of this - some of the facts are not relevant to Australia but it is food for thought.
And here is a TEDx to watch too xx