Saturday, September 20, 2008

A penny for my thoughts!

You ask if collecting for Christian Aid was fun.

Well . . . fun could be one word for it, I could think of plenty others!

Contributions didn’t exactly come in a steady flow. In the course of an hour and a half only fourteen people had dropped money into the bucket. Nonetheless, that was better than thirteen!

However, there’s one thing I must say - the outcome of my efforts on behalf of Christian Aid may have been very slight, but the outcome of my efforts on behalf of lost tourists was immense! Dozens of them, mainly Italians, streamed past me looking confused and uncertain. All were heading towards Shepherds Bush, and all stopped to ask me the way to the Portabello Market. I turned them round, cheered them up, and sent them off happily in the right direction. Perhaps I should also add that, despite being profuse in their gratitude for having been saved a long walk in the wrong direction, not one of them put a penny in the bucket!

Would you like to share a laugh? . I didn’t feel like laughing at the time, but I can just about smile now!

The weather seemed to be deteriorating, so I returned for a second stint earlier than I'd intended. I had hardly been there five minutes when I was approached by a stocky Irishman in jeans and a sleeveless singlet. He put a handful of copper coins into the bucket and then, as though this gesture had bought my attention, proceeded to do an excellent imitation of the Ancient Mariner! Fixed by his beady eye, I heard all about the railway extension works at Shepherds Bush, and the impressive new overheard railway that was planned. I then learned, in great detail, of the corruption in Ireland . . . of the Fascist and the Communists in power (did I really look that naive?) . . . and did I, he demanded, know of the wonderful holiday I could enjoy, should I ever have the wisdom to visit Ireland?

By this time, hemmed in and desperate, I was quietly praying for a diversion . . . but no diversion arrived. What really goaded me was the thought of all the people walking past. People, maybe of generous intent, who couldn't even see my bucket, far less reach round his ample frame to put an offering of money inside!

Finally, after three false starts which raised my hopes to no avail, my inquisitor departed as speedily as he'd arrived. Was he drunk? I couldn't smell beer? Was he on drugs? It seemed unlikely. I think he was just a loquacious Irishman who recognised a sitting target when he saw one!

One further memorable encounter to share with you. It came half-way through the second session. There had been a long interval since the last contribution when I spotted an attractive girl, probably in her twenties, cycling along the pavement. She was weaving her way through the shoppers and, on seeing me, dismounted.

She propped her bicycle against a wall and came across to where I was standing.
"What are you collecting for?" she asked.
I explained about Christian Aid, pointing out how countries suffering from natural disasters were in desperate need of such support.
She stood and listened.
I came to an end and paused hopefully.
My new encounter turned away and reclaimed her bike.
"Just nosey . . . " she explained with a grin as, remounting, she blithely cycled off!

One thing I've learned is that donations come from where you least expect them. I was touched by the gift from the man with Downs Syndrome, by the generosity of a lad with a heavy limp, and the contribution from the young Malaysian girl who didn't look as though she could afford a cup of coffee, far less give money away.

There isn't much rattling inside my bucket . . . but you can’t buy wisdom, and I'm a great deal wiser!