I don’t usually make resolutions. They don’t work for me. I tend to be better with deadlines rushing towards me than promises and pacts hurtling into the past.
But this year (and FOREVER) I’ll be trying to stick to the following simple
resolutions ambitions: Make more. Do good.
I already mentioned making things in my Christmas post. The plan was to make something new at least once a week, whether a cake or a greeting card. And so far I’ve been sticking to it – I’ll write about my new paper-based habits in more detail soon.
The second ambition – do good – is in full swing too.
Before Christmas I decided to put some gift bags together for the homeless. I just got a bit fed up of spending £5, £10 on secret santa gifts that would probably never be used/looked at again and feeling like the money could be far better spent elsewhere. I haven’t really told anyone about it, as it’s difficult not to sound like you’re crowing. But I wanted to put details out there in the hope that it encourages others to do something similar, or do something.
Turns out you can put a pretty good selection of things together for £10 if you know where to shop.
1. Bag – £1.44
I wanted to make sure I got something relatively strong and weather resistant, but also easy to fold away when not being used. I also needed it to be cheap. These drawstring gym bags were perfect. I bought 10 and they were delivered pretty sharpish too.
2. Clothes – £5
Primark do a great range of thermal accessories in Winter. I was tempted to buy some of their fleeces but in the end opted for gloves (£2), hat (£2) and reinforced socks (5 for £5) so I could buy 10 of everything, rather than just 2 or 3 fleeces.
If I’d known how horrendously damp the weather was going to be, I’d have picked up some of those tourist rain ponchos too.
3. Food and water – £2.31
This was the hardest bit. I wanted to fill bags with tins and sandwiches and biscuits and all sorts but, I needed to choose things that would last more than a few days and also keep it easy to carry.
Water – 30p per 500 ml bottle from multipack
Clementine x 2 – 35p each from Tesco
Cereal bar x 3 – 32p each from Tesco
Dairy Milk – 35p each from multipack
4. Toiletries – £1.44
Again, there were a lot of things I could have bought under this heading, but I tried to keep it simple. A packet of anti-bacterial wipes (85p) and a pocket pack of tissues (59p). I thought about buying travel toothbrushes and toothpaste, or a small shower gel. I might do that next time.
Total – £10.19 per bag
Once I’d put the bags together I just needed to hand them out! This was pretty scary, and I wasn’t sure what to say to people. What if they got angry? What if they just wanted money? What if I totally regretted what I was doing?
I took four bags on my first trip and walked from Waterloo to Farringdon and it didn’t take long to find someone out on the street. I approached a young guy tucking himself under a blanket just outside of Waterloo station. I thrust a bag out at him, feeling absurdly British and awkward, and said “Do you mind if I give you this? It’s just a hat and gloves and stuff.”
He said “Oh yeah, anything would be great.” So I handed the bag over and told him to please take it, at which point he looked at me with such earnestness and said “What? Everything?” and I just about managed to HOLD THE TEARS IN. Jesus.
The second guy was at the North end of Waterloo Bridge. He looked quite suspicious of me when he took it but I wished him Merry Christmas and went on my way and he called out thank you which was nice of him.
The third was sat with his dog at the foot of a tree on Aldwych and I then wished I’d made up some pet friendly bags too with biscuits and a chew toy or something.
But that’s the thing, the more bags I’ve handed out, the more things I’ve thought of that I could have included. There is always something more you can give, something more you can do.
And for Summer there are still plenty of simple things that can be handed out. Sunglasses, sun lotion and water would be well appreciated for a start.
I really urge everyone to do what they can. You can start with just buying the Big Issue, or buy an extra cup of tea when commuting and give it to someone. Or you can give without spending anything extra; take an old coat, blanket or whatever with you on your way to work and just hand it out.
It’s so easy to give, help and do good. So please do.