Over the past month or so, especially with a new book out (the other writer in me), I have been fretting about reception, reviews and sales. And plot points and character motivation in my current WIP. I’ll add that along with the worrying I have been working to improve my chances of success in the areas I have a modicum of control over. But last night I had a salutary reminder of how lucky I am; not as a writer per se, although I do consider myself fortunate, but in life.
14-year-old Ginger1 is doing his bronze Duke of Edinburgh award and for the community/ volunteering aspect he was clear from the outset that he wanted to work with homeless people. This wasn’t going to be easy to arrange, especially given his age, but we are fortunate in that I have a loose connection to a charity that runs a soup kitchen, Safe Haven. After some time away – weeks without a babysitter to care for Ginger2 while we’re out, followed by a holiday in Italy – last night we went into the centre of town to offer our services once again.
During the summer months a charity linked with Safe Haven prepares and distributes hot meals from a food van on the car park outside St Peter’s Church in Brighton. Throughout the rest of the year, during term time, Safe Haven provide a two-course sit-down meal inside the church. Between the two organisations, on average 100 guests are fed every Saturday evening, 52 weeks a year, and last night was no exception. We prepared a supper of potato salad and a BLT (with a veggie option) followed by cake and as many cups of tea, coffee or hot chocolate as guests can drink. At one point the queue was enormous – bacon can’t be rushed – and one guest became very agitated. He tried to jump the queue and in so doing upset others. He shouted and yelled and waved his arms about; he’d been drinking, as had many others. Ginger1 looked alarmed. A charity staple went over to calm the man who was now on the verge of crying. It became apparent that he was street homeless – most are poorly housed, in insecure homes or trapped in a cycle of addiction and poverty – and he’d not eaten for three days. Three days.
Once he was relaxed, we gave him his supper and all was well. After a couple of hours Ginger1 and I returned to our comfortable home, with our well stocked fridge and cupboards. And we talked about how it must feel not to eat for days; how confused you might feel, how desperate, how grumpy; why you might drink alcohol or take drugs to ease and numb the pain. How lonely and isolating it can be living on the streets. Barely three hours pass without nourishment of some description passing my boys’s (and my own) mouths.
I reflected on my own worries and concerns. How small and insignificant they are in the scale of things, by comparison to the daily struggles of so many people. Ginger1 is getting such a lot out of volunteering, helping and talking with people whose life experience is far removed from his own. And though I began as chaperone, I am getting as much out of the experience as he is. Books might nourish the mind and soul, but without food in your belly you’re receptive to little.
I am lucky and I am grateful for my good fortune. Enough said.
If you’d like to donate to Safe Haven, please click here.