silent night

I found a ten pound note a few days ago. Folded in three, lying on the frosty grass in Clissold Park. How lucky! I thought.

But not for the person who lost it. It had the air of a tenner previously owned by someone who gets money from the cash machine £10 at a time. Not lucky indeed.

Yesterday I was shopping on Oxford St with my mum.

We are hunting down Christmas cake decorations and Wellington boots. Outside selfridges she buys a Big Issue.

‘Oh Thank God. I’ve had bad morning. No one is buying nothing,’ says the guy, stamping his feet and rubbing his hands.

‘Well you have a better afternoon, I hope,’ say my mum.

‘Merry Christmas.’

‘Merry Christmas.’

Inside we have no luck with the Christmas decorations. It is boiling and I think about taking off my coat. I put my hand in my pocket and my fingers brush against the £10 still folded in three.

Outside again I walk up to the Big Issue seller.

‘I found this on the floor a few days ago,’ I say. He looks at the note and at me. A burst of winter sun lights his face. ‘I wanted to pass the good luck onto someone else, so here you go.’

‘Oh. Thank you. Really,’ his forehead is wrinkled and he looks at me. On the floor?

I’m embarassed – money is such a strange thing. I touch his arm.

‘Here,’ he says handing me a Big Issue still looking confused.

Now ten pounds is quite a lot to just give to somebody. But if you’re living on the street or in a hostel it doesn’t go far – two or three cheap meals.

So should you give money to homeless people? I haven’t for many years choosing instead to buy the Big Issue and support homeless charities. Well they’ll just spent it on drink and drugs right?
It’s Christmas and I’m planning to spend some of my hard earned money beer and wine – why shouldn’t he? As far as I’m concerned it is his money and he can do what he wants with it. In fact it feels like it never was my money.

If you feel like helping homeless people this year, Hackney Winter Night Shelter opens on 1 January and runs to 31st March. This period is usually the coldest of the year.

A tenner could mean a lot to them too.

Merry Christmas and here’s to 2008!

‘Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.’

Dalai Lama


  1. Gor Bless ya!

  2. Hi Jen -enjoyed your piece. Thanks for the mention of Hackney Winter Night Shelter – now open until the end of March. We still need helpers,if you or anyone else passing this way is interested – contact us via the web site whose link you thoughtfuly provided.Liked the pics of Clissold Park on your previous post, too – haven’t spotted the parakeets but will keep an eye out!cheersJonathanNight Shelter organiser

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