What’s Your Truth?

I was on my way to meet an old colleague for some lunch. It wasn’t free: he wanted some advice or some such but, hey, it’s nice to get out. I’d walked Dog, the Textiliste is away so off I set, a summery spring in my step.

At the station there’s this chap – Jeremy – who’s been homeless for a long time and has recently found somewhere, sorted out his benefits and  is making progress in his life. Over time I’ve given him some change, the odd coffee and cake (natch). I stopped and passed the odd word and dropped a few round nothings in his cup.

A woman, I haven’t seen her before, caught my eye as I turned away. ‘You shouldn’t give them money,’ she told me. Helpfully, of course. Maybe she saw my expression because she added, ‘They’ll spend it on drugs or… whatever.’

And with that bit of advice she spun away and went about her day. Maybe she felt good, pointing out my failings, hoping that in future I’d act more correctly. I suppose it’s possible she was genuinely worried for Jeremy’s well-being and here I was leading him into temptation with one pound and not a lot. It might have been good to find out why she felt the way she did, perhaps test the merits of her views.

After all, this happens occasionally. She isn’t the only helpful one. A week or so ago, near Waterloo I was doing the same thing, passing a moment with someone crouched in a doorway, asking if they were ok and emptying some loose change into their coffee cup when a similar opinion was proffered but in this case the man – be-suited, my age-ish – told me if I really wanted to help someone I should give to Syria. He didn’t wait to debate the merits of direct support for our own homeless against funding a multinational operation and what might have the biggest impact and on whom.

I suppose it’s probably as well they both left me with their opinions since the debate might have been something like this:

Man/woman: ‘You know, you shouldn’t give to beggars. They’ll waste it/it’s better spent on real poverty in Syria.’

Me: ‘That’s an interesting view. Do you have a moment to debate it?’  ‘Fuck off. Who asked you?’

Let me say two things first. One, I did take exception to the woman describing Jeremy as ‘them’ like he wasn’t there. Two, both of them might have been right: Jeremy might spend the money on something egregiously unwholesome; the poor souls suffering after umpteen years of war and terror in Syria need all the help they can get and, by contrast, even Jeremy’s situation is dozzy.

The point that really bugs me is how they felt it ok to share their opinions with me. I am all for free speech; stand up and pontificate on the merits or otherwise of helping beggars. But this is different. This is aimed directly at me. What I was doing, I would suggest, impacts them not at all. Maybe they’d argue it keeps people begging if the likes of woolly minded liberals like me keep giving them change and if I stopped then the beggars might go away – though that just pushes them somewhere else; it’s not stopping the begging.  But really they were just sharing their unasked for opinions.

This is an example of people who ‘only speak the truth’ or ‘their mind’ or similar such excuses for unbridled bollocks that people who can’t keep their opinions to themselves spout.

I like truth, don’t get me wrong but I’m personally not so wedded to it that I want it offered up, undiluted and unalloyed all the time. It has its place but so does discretion, empathy, tact, understanding, all of which can be helped by shading the truth, limiting it and sometimes not telling it. Yep, sometimes a lie, pure, undiluted and deliberate is the nicest, fairest, kindness and most human thing to do.

So yes, if I ask your opinion, I’m big enough and smelly enough to take whatever that opinion is. But if I don’t ask for it, don’t give it to me. And even if I ask for it, think about how it might impact, not just me but all those around us and decide, you know, is it really worth it?

Lunch was lovely by the way. I think I helped but time will tell and it was grand to reminisce. And Jeremy? He’d gone when I got back. Probably to the bookies to put a couple of quid on England for the World Cup.

And because I haven’t anything suitable here are  a few pictures of Dog.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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51 Responses to What’s Your Truth?

  1. Ritu says:

    Love the pics of dog!
    And can’t stand those who spout their opinions regardless of whether we want it or not…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hanorah21 says:

    If I were homeless I’d probably spend any cash I got on drugs or alcohol too. It’s not as though you would collect enough to pay rent for a while. What would these busybodies like people in distress to do with their money?

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Exactly my thinking. Too much judging. You know, I think there ought to be a crime of excessive tutting, with community service involving ten hours of random and excessive acts of public kindness as the punishment

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Lucy Brazier says:

    What annoys me most about this tale is the way they speak about ‘them’ as if they are sub-human or something. Certainly, some homeless people end up with addictions as a way of coping with their situation. It’s not always the addiction that makes them homeless. But we never know how close any of us could be to losing everything, yet we would still want to be treated as human beings. Besides, it’s nobody’s business what you do with your money. I’d be inclined to shove it up their arse next time, see how they like that.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Lucy has said everything I might have – only a damn sight better!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. trifflepudling says:

    There’s no shortage of such gits. My mother would say something like ‘Well that’s your opinion, and I didn’t ask for it, thank you’. Personally I’d be tempted to follow my impulse and tell them to Sod Off, smile nicely at them, acknowledge the homeless person, and walk on.
    Good piece, thanks for provoking thought!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Your mother has the balls I lack in such encounters. I tend to channel my inner goldfish when thus confronted until they’ve disappeared and only then am I capable of the witty and conclusive putdown

      Liked by 2 people

      • trifflepudling says:

        My mother was never at a loss for a ready response, but in reality I am much less forward unless I think I’m in personal danger, then Eff Off comes out without my even having thought about it. I try and give the money low key – e.g. if the person is outside a shop I’m going in, I get the money ready whilst I’m in there so the actual giving bit is very swift. I know I should linger for a conversation but I tend not to do so as I’m female and don’t feel so confident about putting myself out there in such situations (an old-fashioned attitude…).
        One wonders how these people doling out advice would feel if it was a relative of theirs, or how they even came to be so self-righteous.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Yes but I try not to think about them. No doubt they have their own issues..

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Opinions… they are butt holes, everyone has one! Dog? What a handsome chap. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  7. willowdot21 says:

    I am with you Geoff you are old enough and big enough to make your own decisions yup the answer is Fuck off!!

    Like

  8. Darlene says:

    Love, love, love the pictures of the dog, thanks! I also think people should mind their own business and you should spend your money however you see fit!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What an interesting post Geoff and what a generous noble soul you are. Well done for showing you care in so many ways and for saying what you think! There should be more of it in today’s world.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. barbtaub says:

    I’m short. My mother was even shorter. But I’ve always envied her ability to look down her nose at invasive strangers a foot taller and inquire, “Do I know you?” —and then completely ignore them.

    Liked by 3 people

    • TanGental says:

      Priceless. I’m on amazon now, hunting out a snoot snitch… hey, they come in four colours, who knew! Ethnically sensitive prosthetics of Kalamazoo. Go ESP!
      PS for any occasional reader not familiar with a Barb/Geoff byplay this is called bullshit.

      Like

  11. Wow! This is so odd! I had the exact same conversation yesterday – only with myself…… I was walking down the street with Siddy and $5 in my pocket. The money was there for a purpose. There’s a woman about my age who looks a hundred years older, an alcoholic, smelly, ill kempt and she and I have been knocking into each other for months now on and off, A couple of days previously we chatted, she took a deep breath and asked me if I had a spare dollar. She said “I wouldn’t ask, I don’t beg, the shelter was full. I’m really hungry” I carry no money when I walk and felt awful that I couldn’t help out. She was cheerful enough and simply announced she would walk into town and that shelter would feed her. I went home got the money and put it in my coat pocket ready for the next time I see her. It’s freaking cold here , remember its winter on my side, and I didn’t know she was homeless as well as everything else. But as I walked and got towards the area where I normally see her my mothers voice popped into my head.”You shouldn’t give them money. It’ll only go on alcohol and drugs. They don’t deserve our help” (My mother was about as different to yours as you may imagine) I heard, I listened, I responded. I debated. Eventually I said my own version of ‘Fuck off!’ realised I was way past the usual meeting place – so it became a moot point. But I thought about that voice and how it was once always there offering her negative take on the world and now rarely visits. And I remembered how very unhappy she was and how unloved she always felt and how she expected the world to make her feel better. And that, I think, is who those people are.

    Sorry about the post in response – but this bit of synchronicity couldn’t go unmarked. 🙂 Particularly loved the pic of Milo coming through his door. “Helllooooo!”

    Liked by 3 people

    • TanGental says:

      Yes, I’ve had many variants. Oddly at Crisis for Christmas one year, a couple ago, a new volunteer asked about this, adding they didn’t give because of that. The guy in charge was great. Their official line is they do more good with the money so give it to an organisation like them as they will ensure it’s directed but, if you have the change and feel it’s right for you and the recipient then and there there give it. Me entirely in a nutshell. Good for you overcoming such an embeddded siren voice.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve given to buskers, I’ve chatted to homeless people in the street and given dog biscuits to their pets, and bought a cup of coffee and hot pie for a guy in a doorway on a freezing cold December day.
    I’ve been put off though having seen a ‘beggar’ walk off to get behind the wheel of a merc. It is they who are the cruellest.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. “My way is the right way, obviously, and I am graciously sharing it with everyone else”. Ugh!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. JT Twissel says:

    Hey, I’ve heard that old line from social workers. We have a huge population of homeless here in California and I once gave money to some poor guy whose sign read “Yup, I’ll spend it on beer.” I don’t know why. Maybe cause I like to sleep at night. Great post Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Charli Mills says:

    Facts are true, opinions are perspective. It’s not speaking the truth when the comment is degrading. Instead, it’s criticism which is nasty sh** to get on your shoes. Try to not walk through it. I’d rather lift up someone and it’s easy to give a homeless person gift cards to fast food, the grocery store, or the gas station if they are living rough in a car. It’s also easy to buy two cups of coffee and give ten minutes of your time to talk person-to-person. It’s easy to give out socks. And if you do give cash and they spend it on “whatever,” so effing what? Imagine not having the freedom to buy what you want? And if you only had five bucks, would you really spend it sensibly? No, you’d go for comfort. You’d buy what makes your brain get through another day. Thank you for your big heart and willingness to step through the sh**, I mean truth, of others to help out a fellow human traveler.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I had a wonderful conversation about the subject of homelessness with you at the Bloggers Bash Geoff. In that short time, you truly made me think about it from a different perspective. It was so refreshing to be speaking to you, who generously gives his time and understanding to such vulnerable people. It annoys me so much how people rush past, totally ignoring, (whether it’s purposely ignoring or just not seeing), those ‘People’ sat on the cold ground. Some folk are totally cold about the situation, but then I think the main bulk of people do care, they just don’t know what to do for the best. I do drop change into those cups some times, but I do wonder if It helps at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. robbiecheadle says:

    I had a huge run in with a girl at work about this same thing, Geoff. I give tins of food to the street children who gather on the road outside my offices. They are a neglected and sad lot and look hungry and down-and-out. Said girl said it was toxic charity i.e. I was perpetuating the cycle of poverty but feeding these poor little chaps. I should rather give my money to a government aid organisation [so they can steal it]. It did not end well for her and I still give my beggars tins.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thanks for the follow 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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