The generosity of strangers in London

Pumpkinella in London town

The generosity of strangers in a big city such as London amazes me. I’m humbled to be able to see people showing kindness to one another.

I was fortunate enough last week to visit London for a week with my daughter Pumpkinella. I moved to Wales a little less than 10 years ago from London and all of my family are still there so I was excited to be able to spend a week with them and give Pumpkinella some quality time with them also.

The drive into London was stressful as the behaviour of drivers is very different when compared to other towns and cities in the UK. The feeling on the road is that everyone has quite an aggressive driving style and journeys are very slow as rush hour seems to be from about 6am through to about 9pm.

My parents live in a leafy suburb with a tube station minutes away so it was great to be just a short distance to central London.

I attended an agile project management training course that my manager had recommended to me at work. On my way in on the first day I was rammed into the tub carriage and was forced to stand under a man’s armpit, a man who probably jumped out of bed, got into his day clothes and went off to work. If you can imagine the whiff of body odour mixed with deodorant, you’ll understand what I mean. I had to change once but luckily wasn’t in the trains for very long. When I got out of the station at Euston, there were 3 or 4 people sitting outside on the floor looking down on their luck and in need of help. A part of me wondered why they were homeless and why some were begging for money. Some people have the perception that many homeless people live off drugs and alcohol but even if this were true, I can’t imagine that it was their ambition in life to end up on the streets.

If I could I would help every single homeless person I saw but I have been scared off doing this in recent years after bad experiences where the people wanted more money or specific favours that I didn’t have to give.

However, on the second day, a young man simply looked at me and all I could imagine was myself in the same situation. I’m in my early 30s and he looked much younger than I. He was clean but in a sleeping bag. He wasn’t speaking, almost as though he was embarrassed. I was humbled that he had the courage to try to reach out for help. I reached into my pocket and was initially embarrassed to only see brass coins. I reached in again and gave him a couple of pounds. It was all the money I had as I mostly pay by card for things. He seemed surprised and was grateful. For a moment I had a warm fuzzy. But the moment passed and I wondered what he could actually buy with that amount of money. In central London, that kind of donation probably doesn’t go very far at all, it wouldn’t even pay for lunch.

A couple of days later I was in Tottenham Court road after the training course and my heart melted when I saw a man come out of  a shop to give a homeless old man a sandwich and hot drink he had just purchased from Pret. That would have set him back close to  £10 and it was actually during the lunch hour. Did he sacrifice his lunch to help someone? The old man was surprised and I think it took him a while to wrap his head around what had just happened. He slowly opened the sandwich and began to eat it. It was such a touching gesture.

This made me wonder about what christmas is really all about. Mary gave birth to Jesus in a manger that someone had generally allowed her and Joseph to rest in. Christmas is about generosity, compassion, kindness. To see true examples of these make me feel so privileged to be born in this day and age. Our generation have the capacity to change the world and I for one want to be a part of it.

I have pledged to myself that during this season, when I see someone down on their luck and have the means to help, I will. this can be with my family, or with strangers. It could be buying a drink for someone cold in the streets like the young man I described earlier or it could be with helping my parents financially as they are pensioners living on a very small monthly allowance. The generosity doesn’t have to be financial either. I haven’t asked for extravagant presents for myself for this christmas. Instead I’ve decided I’m going to be a blessing to my family, offering to cook the christmas dinner and focus on spending quality time together.

Have you seen any good Samaritans around your this Christmas? How will you be celebrating? I’d love to hear your thoughts on your neighbourhoods and about any good deeds you have or have pledged to do during this festive season. Please join me in showing some generosity to strangers in your area over Christmas.


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