There’s more to life than money, as Ron explains to his son…

Just before Christmas Ollie’s dad Ron was so moved by the plight of a homeless man that he sought him out and spent time befriending him. Rather than being a one off, as the new year was beginning, it turns out to have been something of a life changer for the older man…

When Ollie went round to visit his parents, he found his father surrounded by piles of clothes. Pullovers, thick socks and hats jostled for kitchen worktop space with gloves and scarves.

“What’s this Dad? Having a jumble sale?,” he asked. The reply came from behind Ollie. It was his mum, staggering into the room with three bulging backpacks. “Nothing as simple as that son; your father’s on a new mission. He’s working with the homeless.”

“Yes,” said Ron. “Look at all this stuff. No earthly use to us; I’ve found somewhere it can do some good.”

Ollie smiled. “No earthly use? Where are you sending it; a galaxy far, far, away, Obi-Wan Pullover? I can just see you as Yoda. ‘It is disposing of old jumpers we are’…”

Giving time to charity
Ron cut him short. “Sometimes I despair of you, Oliver, I really do. You’ve got so comfortable in your life that you can’t see how others live. I thought you’d learned before Christmas that there were a lot of people worse off than you, when we sought out that homeless man. Obviously I was wrong.” He returned to folding jumpers, saying: “We give money to charity, but we could do so much more. We could be real change makers. Giving back is about more than fundraising and giving money. The most precious gift we can give is time – you already know that, which is why your mum and I spend so much time with Alice and Jack. But other people could use our time as well, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m volunteering at the homeless shelter in town. At least two days a week; it’s giving a whole new purpose to my life.

 Backpack campaign
“That’s what all these jumpers are about. We’re running a backpack campaign, filling these bags with warm clothes for people who haven’t got any. I’m helping to make sure they get to the people who need them the most. Have you seen how cold it can get? It’ll be below freezing tonight, and lots more nights besides, and there are people who’ll be sleeping in shop doorways. I’m glad it’s not me. Or you.”

Ollie’s Mum Lorna, as she’d done so many times in the past, smoothed the rift. “Your Dad’s right, dear. There are people who do need support. They’ve got human rights as well as us. It’s not for us to judge why they’re homeless, but I’m sure none of them choose to be. They just need something of the ‘home comforts’ we’re all so used to, and take for granted.”

Ron’s temper had abated, and he went on: “And I’m thinking about helping out with cooking a Sunday lunch at the shelter from time to time. My Yorkshire puddings are famous, as well you know. Even outside Yorkshire. And when the warmer weather gets here, I’ll help out with something else. There will always be some task or other I can do that involves giving back to society. I’ve got skills, you know, and the shelter is full of people who would benefit from them.”

Lorna spoke again. “And you can see the sense of purpose in your Dad. He’s getting a sense of reward and fulfilment that has nothing to do with money; though money is important as well, obviously… Anyone can feel this good about themselves by helping others. Isn’t it wonderful?”

“Here, carry these to the car,” said Ron, thrusting a pile of clothing at his son. “Don’t you see that although it’s brilliant that the way Solo Expenses helps good causes by channelling a proportion of its profits into them, it’s only part of the story. We can all do more than use their clever little money management app. Doing what I’m doing is an extension of that, bringing me closer to where the need is. Whatever we can do, a few pennies or a few hours, is all to the good.

“If you come with me, I’ll make a donation to your wellbeing. Your heart will be expanded, and you’ll have a warm glow. Work hard enough, and there might even be a cup of tea in it for you. Come on!”

Picture: Willstock | Dreamstime