Manchester Universities Catholic Chaplaincy
On Saturday evening we headed out bags packed with food on our shoulders, our hands laden with flasks full of hot brew. As splashes of rain stared falling we became reluctant, pondering the idea of carrying out a shorter route. Only to be reminded of the reality that we were luck. With our big rain coats and dry socks on, the least we could do was give what we had to people who needed it, sitting alone on a dreary English night.
Quite early on, we began to recognise the increased presence of individuals sitting on the street. By the time we had reached the central library (about a ¼ of the way around the route) we were nearly out of cups. This trend continued all along the path we took. Arriving back empty handed; all we had to offer had been taken with grateful hands. We were able to help 41 people but it just makes you wonder how many we weren’t able to see. Who else was in need on this single evening in Manchester?
Something that particularly shook us was the vast contrasts. The bubbly groups dressed to impress, just heading out for an evening in town compared to the individuals alone, cold and wet after a day sitting at the side of the pavement. The smells of the rich variety of food on offer inside candle lit restaurants or our offering of the cold sandwiches, rejected from a café. The gentlemen who informed us of the hotel he was staying in for the night at a price of over £100 or the around £3 one man had collected during the day which he was planning to spend on a bus ticket to allow him to sleep somewhere undercover for part of the evening.
With all this in mind, you would expect us to be inundated with gloomy faces. However what we found was the stark opposite. The words of thanks were overwhelming. Several times our hands were grasped as they looked us in in the eye, desperate to insure we realised how genuinely grateful they were. Even with the weight of the world on their shoulders, so many were somehow able to muster up this positive attitude. “I’m just happy every morning I wake up alive” one young man told us as he explained how a holiday gone wrong had lead to where he was now. Not only did we witness some people’s positive outlook, but we really felt the interest toward our lives and the care shown toward us. “Stay safe” one lady sitting alone instructed us. This is a line I so often say myself, to be instructed it by her instead, was not what we were expecting. It’s when people are kindest that it feels the most worthwhile however, this is also the hardest. It makes you realise the injustice. If everyone was rude and drunk it would be less hard hitting, but it’s when people are so kind that you really think about what a disservice our society is doing them.
In conclusion, although the material objects we can provide are important, it’s also the human contact, the compassion and care we can show that can mean so much more.