When I was 10 years old I travelled to Manchester with my parents We visited a Museum that had Egyptian Mummies. I recall the visit with fondness. It was my first experience to see a real life ancient Mummy and the memory has stayed with me to this day.
The most profound memory however is not that of our trip but the shock of seeing homeless people sitting in the streets.
Growing up in a small town I had never seen the homeless before. Had I lived in Manchester or London or a city area it may have been a normal site but to see an elderly woman sitting on a piece of cardboard begging was something that tugged at my heart strings.
Beggars can’t be choosers. An experience.
My family were not the richest and I had never been to KFC. My parents were taking us for a real treat and I asked my mum if we could buy a meal for the homeless lady on the street.
Proudly I ordered a meal, chicken, fries and beans. I ordered a drink and ran outside with my sister eager to gift this warm meal to the lady on the street.
I was feeling a real sense of compassion and charity and knew by helping someone in need I was doing a good thing. However when I gave the lady the meal, I did not receive the thanks or gratitude I might have expected. Instead the lady said to me in a piercing voice which I shall never forget, “I don’t like chicken”.
I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do, how to feel. My intentions to help someone in need were thwarted by the fact she did not like chicken. For years I have looked back on this experience and thought of how ungrateful the woman was.
They say beggars can’t be choosers and through the experiences of my earlier years opinions and views were shaped which reinforced this ideology and thought pattern.
I did not grow up rich or with everything handed to me. In fact often my father would struggle to find employment and we would walk the streets collecting cans and knock the doors hoping to sell bread bags of firewood for the fire.
I learned at a young age that to get somewhere in life you need to work hard for it. My sister and I both studied hard and did our best to get the best education. My sister is now a doctor and I have a degree in Arts (Education and Writing) as well as a teaching qualification.
I learnt to work hard for the things I needed but I also learnt to accept help when needed. In fact just like the beggar I had the notion reinforced into my mind that I should accept all the support and help I could get.
This belief system in someways is true, however at the same time it is a false truth. Whilst people should be grateful for the things they are given, we have freedom of choice and do not have to accept all that is offered to us.
As a young women I had low self esteem and whilst dating I formed the opinion, “I should date his guy because no one else would give me the time of day.” I was in an abusive relationship and he clearly reinforced my beliefs telling me no one else would ever want me and sure enough I ended up marrying the man. Once again I had the notion that beggars can’t be choosers but oh how wrong I was.
The reality is when you want someone or need something you don’t have to take the first thing that comes along. Be it a relationship, an education offer, or a KFC meal. As a blogger I do not have to accept all the review opportunities I am given, work for free or take what I am given. I have choice and can make decisions. I can wait for something better to come along, say no and know my worth.
For years I thought and assumed that the beggar woman should have accepted the chicken I offered her. Why should she choose what food she wanted when she was so poor and needy? She was down and out and lower than many and surely she should accept the help she is offered.
However this woman was a real person with likes and dislikes and maybe despite it taking many years to understand the one lesson she truly taught me is that it’s okay to say no when it’s not something you like or want to do.
It’s certainly food for thought and something I now understand more clearly. We can’t force our will on others, people are free to choose. We all have worth and despite where we find ourselves in life, be it sleeping rough on a street or living life as a mother with chronic illness, trying to get somewhere in the blogging world, the reality is we all have worth and no matter what others think we should or should not do, the choice is up to us.