CHARITY – begins at home – or does it … should it?
Do people matter, really and truly – Or is it just ME that matters? I am the centre of my own universe, after all, and isn’t it all down to me in the end.
One day about three years ago – I was in my office on a murky winter morning, waiting for a client, when a man came in off the street; he was dishevelled, distraught, angry and disturbed. Out of his mind. He shouted at me in his anger, as if I were the cause of it.
He did not have two pennies to rub together, he said. He desperately needed just a few pounds, so that he could put some petrol into his Jaguar and take it to meet a customer who wanted to buy it. With money from the sale, he could pursue his business and all his troubles would be over.
How could I help him?
All he wanted was a few pounds – didn’t I understand? He roared at me at the top of his voice. I asked him about his business. That wasn’t his problem – he knew all about his own business, he didn’t need that sort of advice. He – just – needed – a – few – pounds.
He sat there and glared at me.
It just didn’t add up. A man with a Jaguar in a spate over a few pounds?
It was my turn to feel desperate.
“Can’t you ask the buyer to come to you?”
“How can I ask him, when I haven’t even got any money on my mobile phone?”
He delved into the inside pocket of his filthy jacket and brought out a gleaming i-phone, switching it on.
An uncharitable thought flashed through my mind. He could sell that phone, for starters! I could also offer to let him use our office phone, but somehow I knew that wasn’t the point.
“I’m an artist,” he said, switching it on. “This is one of my paintings.”
I gasped. I’m no connoisseur, but this was an amazing picture. He scrolled down, each painting equally astonishing in its perfection and the sheer life it conveyed.
I was impressed. I looked at him with new eyes, praising his talent. I opened my office door, inviting the receptionist to take a look. We whole-heartedly admired the pictures. He calmed down, thanked us, and stepped out of the office.
And we breathed joint sighs of relief.
A few months ago I prepared to see an old client. The name on the file didn’t mean anything to me, but when he came in, my heart fell. He was calmer this time; not so dishevelled, and he wanted me to help him with his business.
“We’ve seen each other before,” I said. “Do you remember?” He nodded. I refrained from asking about his Jaguar, and I was able to start him on a business plan. His journey is still on-going; and his art is still astonishing.
And I know why I am a volunteer client adviser for People Matter, a local charity with a big heart for people who need to earn a living.