Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bruce: an Inspiration to Us All

Walking in the city, I saw Bruce. Bruce sat in his usual area, on the footpath but out of the way of passers-by, with all his possessions next to him: his sleeping bag and a couple of small bags with his clothes. I went to sit next to him and we had a chat. I sat on the ground, just like him, but he offered his bag of clothes for me to sit on because he figured it would be more comfortable. I declined and said I was perfectly fine sitting on the ground.

Now Bruce is someone who would never harm a fly. He would give, and has regularly given, his last dollar to a charity, a hospital or a church. He feels he has everything he needs because he has his clothes, his sleeping bag and most meals, what more could he possibly want. He says there are so many people in greater need than him who would be helped by his funding of these charities, hospitals or the church. A man with very modest requirements for himself but with an observant eye for what is lacking in society: care for people who are doing it tough.

Bruce told me Grant had given him some money a little while ago when he was broke, and he wanted to do something in return. Like Grant, he wanted to do something for someone else, and he asked me to take his sleeping bag and give it to a homeless person or bring it to our next BBQ for the Homeless and Others in Need. He had only bought it recently, and showed me the receipt to show me that he honestly paid for it (haha, you gotta love Bruce!). He said he had slept in it so perhaps I should check it out and see what I think. He said it was too warm for him to sleep in, there was no need for him to have a sleeping bag. I said that the colder months would be coming soon, he would need his sleeping bag, but he insisted I take it and give it to someone else.

I suggested Bruce think about it. I said both Grant and I were in the city regularly, and if he still wanted to donate his sleeping bag in two days time, we would take it then. But Bruce was adamant I take it now. I offered him some money for it, but he did not want any money. He just wanted to do something for someone else because Grant had done something for him.

I asked how he was going to sleep without his sleeping bag, and he replied “Oh, I’ll be alright. I’ll sleep on a piece of cardboard or something”. Accepting a homeless man’s sleeping bag to give to someone else was something I struggled with, but then, who am I to deny him to help someone else… I could see it was his wholehearted desire and decision to give it away, and who am I not to respect that. I still protested, saying I thought he should keep his sleeping bag, but he did not want to hear it, and so I ended up finding myself taking it to give to someone else who needed it more than Bruce.

I asked him where he was going to sleep tonight, and he said he wasn’t sure, perhaps he would just sleep where he was. I asked if it was an OK place to sleep, and his face changed from happy and involved to drawn and worried. I said “It’s not an OK place to sleep?”, and he shook his head. I checked if he knew a better, safer place, and again he shook his head. We didn’t go into things too much, but we concluded things were better during the day. A little while later I left to get on with my day, walking away from Bruce with his sleeping bag in my hand to find it a new owner. And Bruce went on with his day, too, right where he was sitting: a man with no home who had just given away his own sleeping bag so that someone else could be helped. People who have the least often are the most generous…


Just a brief aside about our BBQ. Our BBQ for the Homeless, Flood Victims and People in Need is coming up on Sunday 17 February. Donations of clothes, shoes, toiletries, toys, small household goods etc and/or soft drinks can be dropped off to The Polite Team at Post Office Square, Brisbane, on Friday 15 February between 7AM and 2PM. If you have larger things to donate, such as furniture, please contact Grant on 0412 190 011.


Something completely different now: the Polite Team has been very involved in fund raising for several causes. Firstly, we have joined forces with others as Team Polite People to raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation by participating in the World’s Greatest Shave, so that others may be helped better. Yes, in March both Grant and I as well as Denise and Dave will shave back to a Number One. I include the link to our Team page here so you can tax-deductibly donate if you wish – we hope you will! We hope to raise a lot of dollars for the Leukaemia Foundation and that we will not be walking around with no hair for nothing! We do need donations, so please support us if you can:

Secondly, Grant has been nominated to be Heritage Bank’s Volunteer of the Year for 2012. 2012 was another year in which Grant tirelessly helped the homeless and others in need, both on a large scale with his BBQs and on a one-on-one basis, as well as raised awareness through this blog and through talking with people. A Big Issue vendor, Grant selflessly spends much of his money on helping others, and his enthusiasm gets many people inspired and on board. Winning the competition would give him $1,000 towards the coffee cart project he is ready to start, and it would give Grant’s charity organization Signal Flare a very welcome injection of $10,000 towards the BBQs and other forms of large-scale help for the homeless and others in need. All you have to do to vote for Grant is click! If you would like to give him your vote – and he needs a lot of votes to beat the current Number One – here is the link:
First like the page, then click on “Vote Now”, go to R for Grant Richards, scroll down to Grant’s nomination and vote. Lastly, don’t forget to reply to the confirmation email or your vote won’t count. Please note: the competition closes on Friday 15 February.

That’s about it for me now. Please all take care and be safe, and watch this space for more updates.

Written by Bernie the Polite Girl from the Polite Team

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