So recently, a friend and I took to the streets of Melbourne to do something nice for some of the homeless crew around the CBD.
This post will explore the behind the scenes reasoning why and also some of the unexpected feedback I received (good and bad).
Saturday 26th December 2015 at around 8pm, I was walking my dog, Basil, and I had a thoughtful thought.
To be completely honest with you, on this particular night I was personally feeling down. Nothing major, just not having a great day. Being a generally optimistic person, it can really disrupt you to have negative feelings.
And then it hit me. If I’m currently feeling sad, imagine how it must feel for someone who actually is struggling with real issues. Homeless-ness, bankruptcy, alcoholism or domestic violence. (not discounting the sadness some of us may feel…but to be honest, I’d say most of us have it pretty comfortable compared to some).
So I started thinking what could I do that will help create change?
It was a cold-ish night and on one of my sunday rides a few weeks back, I remember seeing a lot of make shift homeless shelters around the Melbourne and surrounding area. So I put two and two together and decided to do a night feeding some of the homeless around Melbourne’s CBD.
First stop: My local Lebanese bakery to grab 6 large mixed containers of meat (roughly $82 worth..which I point out only to let you know the whole exercise was very cheap in the grand scheme of things)
Next up, Coles Supermarket to buy 70 something bread rolls. I honestly just grabbed as many as I could fit in my basket along with a roll of tinfoil (about $45 for all of this).
For this movement to grow however, I needed to create impact. To raise awareness of the cause (not my cause…it belongs to all of us).
I also understand that if you want to create any sort of impact with a movement you need two things:
- Exposure (preferably on the global scale)
Which is why I chose to record (respectfully), to show the world just how easy and fun it is to make a difference. Little did I know it would create a bit of a stir with some people, but more on that later.
So I messaged my friend Char and simply said: “What are you doing tonight?” without hesitation she messaged back and after explaining (vaguely) she agreed with no issue.
So off I went, grabbed the meat, grabbed the rolls, grabbed Char.
Side Note: We had a small issue…
Where were we going to prepare the rolls??
In the back of my rented Volkswagon of course (my car is in for repairs atm).
So we made a production line in the hatch of the car. She cut the rolls, I packed them with meat and sealed them in tin foil.
In the end, we made up around 65-70.
OK locked and loaded, time to get on our way. First stop Melbourne CBD.
We quickly found a parking spot, grabbed out one bag of rolls and started cruising the streets. Being a Saturday Night, there plenty of people out and many commenting on our ‘be nice.’ tops.
On our travels we found various people. Some were very warming to our offering, some wanted to be left alone and some wanted a big conversation (which was awesome).
I was very careful to be respectful of their territory and did not want to encroach without approval.
To do this, I ensured to lower myself to their level, as not to talk over the top of them, approach with a friendly voice and explain what I was there for and what I had.
Please also note, I use the collective words ‘them’ and ‘their’ in this situation for ease of reading, but in fact I learned and used all of their names individually at the time. Names are such an important part of life and our identities. Which I was reminded of on our travels funnily enough which you will read about in a minute.
Our first approach was unsuccessful, our second a success (she was also a character which made things fun) followed by our third approach, a gentleman by the name of ‘Oost’.
I offered the rolls to him, followed by asking for his name, which I thought he replied ‘Austin’, so I repeated it. To which he corrected me: “Auss”. I again repeated and it. To which a third reply came, this time very specific and speaking deliberately: “Oost….It’s German!” he told me.
It was truly eye opening to understand just how much people place emphasis on their own names. Initially I would have thought if I were hungry, cold and tired, I wouldn’t bother to correct anyone on my name. But it’s quite the opposite. People are very attached to their names and in fact it is a solid sign of them keeping their identity.
What a great lesson.
We continued on and found a few more people, each with their own unique story.
The common theme was that most ignore them…So it was refreshing to have someone initiate conversation without thinking they were crazy.
We had just about ran out of rolls, and were traveling back down one of the main streets towards the car. Looking for a few more people to give our last rolls to. Then, we saw the first lady we met (the character). But this time she had 3 friends with her.
Great, 3 more people we can be nice to. We provided a couple of rolls each to two of them, but the third person, a guy, said he wasn’t hungry.
He then proceeded to tip out the contents of his bag….to which 8-10 needles (sealed and in wrappers) dropped to the floor along with most of his other possessions.
We were literally 1 foot away from this. Which is the closest I’ve ever been to that and it was truly confronting.
We decided that it wasn’t ideal to stick around too long in this situation, said our goodbyes, and moved on.
Very real and raw.
By this time it was around 1:30am. We had been at it for around 3 – 3.5 hours, and although we could have kept going, we had exhausted the main streets of Melbourne CBD and didn’t seem to be finding any more people.
We googled a nearby shelter as we still had 30 rolls in the boot of my car! We found one in Collingwood and decided to cruise over there. Unfortunately it was closed and we had to move on.
Which was a shame. I messaged my friend, Glen, who is very close with the community and has been doing great work for many many years. He explained that around this time of year the homeless receive A LOT of food donations, but if I wanted, I could drop it in to a local place he recommended.
All in all, I deemed it a successful night. Not only did we brighten up the nights of some of Melbourne’s homeless crew, but I helped show people that for around $125 you can have a terrific night full of giving and help create a movement.
This makes me even more pumped to create bigger and better events in the future.
In fact, I had over 10 people message me saying they want to be involved in the next homeless feed run. Imagine that. A whole clan of ‘be nice-ers’ doing great work for the community…..soon this will be a reality.
So when people decide to voice their opinion saying that we (or I) did this for my ego, I have to disagree. You see, the only way to truly create impact with a movement, is to share it. The more you share, the more you grow. The more you grow, the more people you can help.
So if you feel this has helped enlighten your life and the movement could help others, please feel free to share this story.
You are part of the movement.