Last week, I took a post-work trip to Edinburgh. It took 2 hours in the car (it would have been shorter, but for the rush hour traffic); I was meeting up with some friends I knew, and have met, and also a friend who I have never met.
Tooli (Daughter) dropped me off and she headed to meet up with her mate; I bimbled along the street to where I knew they were waiting.
The one friend, whom I have never met, was sitting at the edge of the table and as I approached, she turned round, looked at me and squealed "OH MY GOD It's Helen".
The internet is a terrifying thing. For four years we have ribbed each other, laughed at photos, been thoughtful and sad about things, but we had never laid eyes on each other, other than in photographs.
She seen me,and knew it was me immediately and the minute I sat down, I wasn't sitting with a stranger, I was sitting with a friend who I had shared stories with, laughed, and cried with. There was no strangeness and no awkwardness. Weird eh?
Our short time together was full of laughing and almost crying with laughter, and too soon we had to head our separate ways again.
As I walked along the street, I looked at the mass of people in the street, laughing, playing, kissing, holding hands, I looked at the beggars taking up their "prime evening" seats and holding their cups out. And I contemplated the strangeness and unfairness of the world.
I noticed one disheveled chap place cardboard down carefully, away from the thoroughfare, and layer torn material on top and the settle himself down carefully. He wasn't on the busy part of the road, nor on a part of the road which might be busy and he certainly wasn't looking around for a would be benefactor.
I never give money to beggars; typically because the ones around here are junkies, alcoholics, and people on the make for an easy buck.
I object to having worked my whole life while they choose to sit on the ground and just ask to have money given to them. I made that decision years ago when, after having spent 10 hours away from my 7 week old baby, I was shouted at for being a selfish git by a drunk beggar who had been sitting in the same place when I arrived for work, and was still sitting, sodden with piss when I went back to get on my bus home and he gave me a mouthful of abuse and swearing for not acknowledging him.
But something about this chap made me think. He wasn't playacting for anyone. He was looking for a quiet spot to sit down and sleep, maybe think, maybe be alone. As I walked along the quiet part of the road towards him, I went into my bag and checked what change I had. I found a note, and thought about it for a moment. And then I decided.
I took the note out and diverted towards him. He looked up at me, aware that someone was coming in his direction and he moved his cardboard in, not wanting to take up more space than was necessary. As I got closer I held out my hand. He looked up at me again, and looked at my hand, and then back at my eyes.
"Take it", I said, and as well as taking my money, he held my hand, in both hands; the warmest hands I had felt; and said "thank you ma'am, thank you very much".
I refrained from saying "don't buy booze, don't buy drugs". It wasn't for me to say that; I had made the decision to give him the money - it was up to him to do the right thing.
As I walked away, I glanced back at him, and he was sat, holding the note in his hand, looking at it, and then he glanced up at me, nodded and put the money inside his jacket.
I hope he spent it wisely.