This Christmas, with everything so utterly hectic in our lives following our last minute house move and all the problems we were having with the pregnancy, it completely slipped my mind to take part in what has become an annual tradition for us....sending a shoebox to a needy child via Operation Christmas Child.
I blogged a little about our box last year and why we like to join in, which you can read about here if you'd like to.
I was completely devastated when I realised that the deadline had passed and we wouldn't be able to send our box this year.
But I decided that it didn't have to mean a missed opportunity - instead it could be a chance to put the time and effort we would have put into the box into doing something else - something that would benefit somebody else in need at Christmas time.
One day we were heading off on a train journey from our local train station, and a homeless man came up to talk to us and Tyne.
I have to be completely honest here and admit that at first I was petrified!
He had a bit of an aroma of alcohol around him, and he looked a little frightening with his gruff unkempt beard and wild white hair...his skin was rough and red, and obviously his clothes were dirty and battered.
My immediate reaction was to take a step backwards and hold Tyne tighter - a million scenarios running through my mind...What if he grabbed Tyne? What if he swore? What if he said something nasty to one of us?
Within seconds though....I started to realise that I didn't have anything to be concerned about and I felt a little embarrassed for making such assumptions about a person I had never laid eyes on before.
He smiled at us both...and he spoke gently to Tyne.
"Hello Young Man!"...he said..."Aren't you a striking little fella? Are you having fun watching the trains today?"
Tyne, unlike his critical and judgemental mummy!, didn't see any of the things I saw in the man....he looked at him with innocent eyes and smiled...just like he would at anybody who spoke to him.
The man smiled too....and he turned to me and said "He's lovely. He looks just like I did when I was a little boy...from the photos I've seen anyway!"
This made me sadder than I can even begin to explain.
Infact it makes tears well up in my eyes to think about it....
This man....this lonely man, living rough on the streets for whatever reason....once upon a time, he was somebody's baby.
Somebody's pride and joy that they photographed to remember his bonny baby looks....
I thought about Tyne and all my hopes for his future, and I thought about how excited we all were for Christmas this year....the first year that he'd be fully aware of what was happening....
And then I thought about how, once upon a time, this man's mother had probably had all those sames hope for her little boy and all the same excitement....
I wondered what his Christmas would look like this year....where he'd be, would he have anything to eat? Anyone to wish him well?
The man carried on chatting with Tyne for a while...he told us his name was Caspar, and that when he was little he used to love trains too....just like Tyne does.
It became apparent as he chatted with us that he had some other issues going on...he seemed to have some learning difficulties and in many ways he seemed much like a little boy himself.
His face looked aged and weather worn but his eyes gave away a much younger soul, they still had a sparkle about them and they glistened with excitement as he spoke to Tyne about the trains at the station....I wondered if this was a rare occurrence for him, to have people just to chat with.
I was pretty useless during this whole scene to be honest, as all I could think about was the sadness of the situation and I struggled not to cry....so I stayed quiet and just smiled at the man.
Jon, who is far better at this sort of thing than me, was thankfully there to chat with the man and pass the time of the day with him....
The conversation lasted only a few minutes and then Caspar went on his way...but it left such an imprint on me.
I completely understand the reasoning many people have for not giving money on the street to homeless people and to an extent I can understand a lack of empathy when perhaps they know some of the story behind why they've ended up where they are....Personally I've always preferred to give people the benefit of the doubt and pass them money if I can spare it, buy a Big Issue, do what I can.
But meeting this man made me want to do something more.
So when Christmas rolled around, and we'd missed the Operation Christmas Child deadline, I remembered Caspar...and I decided that this year we'd make some shoeboxes for homeless people.
We filled them with a mix of essential items and treats...it is Christmas after all and why shouldn't they have something nice?!
I filled them with thermal hats, gloves, socks and scarves. Toothbrushes and toothpaste. Soap and flannels. Sanitary towels in ladies ones. Some chocolate. A sandwhich. Some water. Some crisps.
Nothing extravagant - pretty simple really. They cost about £5 per box. But I thought they might be useful...and I hoped that they might cheer someone up, and might make their Christmas just a little bit nicer.
Maybe I'm naive and maybe they made no difference to anybody...but I'm glad that I tried, anyway.
We went out on Christmas Eve to hand them out....we went to the train station and I so hoped to find Caspar but we didn't...I haven't seen him since that day.
I hope wherever he is that he's doing ok....and I'm grateful for him to talking to us that day and making me want to do something to help.
After giving out those boxes on Christmas Eve, I felt happy to have done just a little something for somebody else and it made me want to do that more....It made me want to help Tyne to understand that not everybody is fortunate in this world for a million different reasons, and to want to encourage a giving heart in him.
And so I decided that this year...once a month...I will do something...ANYTHING...for other people.
A random act of kindness.
I don't know what they'll be, I'm going to wait and see what opportunities present themselves to me each month....
But at the end of the year, I want to be able to look back at my 12 Random Acts and know that, even if I achieve nothing else this year, I did something to try to spread positivity and kindness in the world.
No matter how small.
If you feel that this is something you'd like to do too, then I would LOVE to hear about it so please do tweet me or send me any suggestions you might have for Random Acts!
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