Just this year I got a job in a bakery. It was in the middle of a concourse of shops near where I live. This area is a quite wealthy area, surrounded by schools, parks and families. I would consider it quite a friendly, open area.
I had never noticed any homeless people in this area before. I had seen them in the city trying to sell Big Issue magazines, and being ignored by every wealthy businessman as though they were animals with rabies, but I had never seen them this close to my house and school.
One day I was working, and it was edging closer to close time and a tall, skinny man with a long, dirty black beard walked in. He was wearing dirty jeans, a ripped shirt and was carrying a back pack. He shuffled up to the counter and proceeded to order two pies and a cup of coffee. After I put the prices into the cash register and recited the price, he reached for his wallet. His wallet was a piece of paper folded in quarters so money wouldn't fall out. He hesitantly pulled out a pile of silver coins, looking at the pies as though he was contemplating whether it was worth it or not. After retrieving all his money out, he came up three dollars short. I gave him a five dollar discount, he thanked me and went to sit down.
After setting out his pies and coffee he pulled out that chair and moved in-between it and the table, but didn't sit down. He stood there for quite a while, looking around. I didn't think anything of it and went to wipe down a table behind him. When I was standing behind him it was quite evident that he had not made it to the toilet in time. His pants wet on the back, the liquid running all the way down to the cuffs of his long jeans. I returned to the counter and it was quite evident that he was embarrassed. He sat down and proceeded to eat his pies and coffee.
While this bearded man was still in the restaurant my boss instructed me to commence with pack up. This basically meant getting all the left over bread, quite often up to seven bags of it, and putting it in a dumpster. On thinking of the poor homeless man in the restaurant, I asked my boss if I could put together a bag of bread, rolls and pies for him to take. My boss blatantly refused, stating that "he will say the pies are dodgy and try and sue us". I thought this was unrealistic possibility, but I still didn't give him the bread.
Later that day, I thought a lot about that man. Basically, I came to the conclusion that no one should have to live like this. Not this man, not the lady in the city, not anyone. They shouldn't have to withstand the constant vilification from society, or the accusations of corruption when all they want is a nice cup of coffee and a hot Australian pie.
I think if we do look closer into the people that our parents told us to avoid and not make eye contact with, we will find that we have a lot more in common than we think. I think we will find that we all just want to be safe, accepted and loved. And I think we should find that one wealthy business man is no more entitled to these rights than a man with wet pants, and a messy past.
I thought it was time to see a change in our attitude towards people in need, and I know that that change needs to start with me.
And that's why I want to volunteer.