Once upon a time, a day before one of our BBQs for the Homeless and Others in Need, I posted on The Big Issue wall on Facebook, commenting on The Big Issue's encouragement of people to take paid subscriptions on this fortnightly magazine. I commented that the street vendors, who earn their living by selling the magazine, would get less sales when people got the magazine home-delivered in the mail, and that the magazine was designed to help street vendors help themselves by selling it. A lady named Bridget (whose name is not really Bridget) replied to my post talking about her life. She was a Big Issue vendor, and I won’t go into the details but she had experienced trauma at the hands of others and had had a tough life. I read her reply while walking from South Brisbane Station to Musgrave Park at about 6:45am to set up our BBQ with Grant and some volunteers, and I replied to Bridget that I was sorry she had gone through all that in her life, that I was on my way to set up a BBQ for the homeless and others in need and so that I did not have time to reply much now, but that I would reply more tonight or tomorrow.
The same evening or the next morning (I can’t quite remember) I replied more to her comment to my post on the Big Issue Facebook page and posted photos of the BBQ on Facebook, and Bridget replied on the photos: she had been to the BBQ, found some clothes, enjoyed some great food (thank you, Dalton Hospitality!) and had a great time. My surprise was huge: I had no idea she lived in Brisbane! I found a Facebook friend request from her and that was the start of a friendship.
Bridget sold The Big Issue in Brisbane and was a regular at our BBQs. Then, fast forward, while we are still doing BBQs for the homeless and others in need, Grant was opening his coffee shop “Having a Go Coffee”. A very special coffee shop that really deserves – and will get!!! - a post of its own. For those who don’t know, in brief: “Having a Go Coffee” employs only people from a background of homelessness or other hardship to help them turn their lives around, it is a suspended-coffee outlet, and 20 cents of every cup sold goes to Signal Flare, the charity that we set up but that really has been Grant’s initiative – Signal Flare, too, deserves a post of its own! “Having a Go Coffee” is also a drop-off zone for donations for our BBQs: clothes, shoes, toiletries and anything else donated for homeless and others in need can be dropped off at the shop from where it will go to our storage or straight to the BBQs.
To understand the rest of this story you need to understand the concept of suspended coffee. It's simple: suspended coffee means that you can buy a coffee but instead of having it yourself you can place a token in a jar for someone in need to have a coffee. Every generous soul can do it! Bridget regularly visited “Having a Go Coffee” to enjoy a suspended coffee. She enjoyed the coffee so much that she was often literally moved to tears because people had the goodness of heart to buy a suspended coffee for someone else, so that she too could enjoy a coffee like most people can.
Lately Bridget has been doing very well. She has been able proudly to buy a few suspended coffees for others herself and, coming from where she has come from, she was doubly proud and happy because she knew from experience what these coffees mean to people in need. To them it is much more than the ordinary coffee it is for most people: it is coffee that comes with love from another person, it shows that people care, drinking coffee in a coffee shop like other people do narrows the gap between them and others and lifts their feelings of self-worth, and because they can’t have a coffee that often it simply tastes like heaven, too!
And just a few weeks ago Bridget came into the shop, with a beaming smile, carrying bags of clothes she was donating to our BBQs. Just awesome and heart-warming. She was proud and so were we. And she knows her clothes will go directly and for free to people who really need them and are very much helped by them. Bridget is giving back to the community and it is wonderful. We applaud her and people like her. We cheer them on. They have come a long way and they show that hard times can be overcome, that people can improve their situations and deserve respect. The homeless and others in need don’t deserve the prejudice and negative attitude they so often meet: we don’t know their story and we don’t know how hard they might be working right now to get out of their situation into a better one.
To me, Bridget’s story is an inspiration. I am proud. And it all started with a post to The Big Issue… Thank you, Bridget.
I hope you will all have a great day. Give a smile or a kind word to someone on the street today; you won't know how it might lift their spirits!
Posted by Bernie the Polite Girl for The Polite Team