A fortnight ago I did an overnight marathon around London, in aid of Cancer Research UK. It was a fantastic experience, with tough times along the way, but there are a few memories that will stick with me.
1) Watching the sun come up in the city; a beautiful red, orange, white and blue background glowed around the famous sights. The view was breathtaking. Simply perfect.
2) Arriving at the break point at Mile 19. Bodies were littered around the courtyard as though it were a warzone; everyone was wrapped in foil blankets to protect against the chilly night air, and the first aid station had a lengthy queue outside.
3) The number of people sleeping rough on our city’s streets.
When you walk around London during the day, you probably don’t pay too much attention to the homeless. At night, though, the city was emptied of its daytime tourists, and the problem was all too obvious. Doorways were filled with sleeping bags, holding people whose only mattress was a flattened cardboard box.
At the stop-off points along the way we were given energy drinks, cereal bars and bananas; many people were leaving their food and drink next to the huddled figures. I was touched that so many people were affected enough to donate their energy supplies, even after trudging for twenty or so miles.
At church last Sunday, we celebrated Harvest Festival. Although we no longer bring in the fruits of the harvest (“non-perishables only, please”), the spirit remains. We come together as a community, and give thanks for what we are so lucky to have.
Equally as important is the recognition that so many do not have ready access to food and drink. Every Sunday we collect for the local food bank, which provides for people who are struggling to afford the very basics in life: food and shelter. At Harvest, we renewed our efforts; the food bank is experiencing unprecedented demand, so the gathering is all the more important now. Our mountains of unneeded food are being donated to the Wimbledon Food Bank and the Merton Faith in Action Drop-in centre for the homeless.
As autumn kicks in, and winter approaches, it’s time to think about lighting the fire, and snuggling up in a blanket, with a hot chocolate, while watching some mediocre Saturday night telly. If you do have the basics in life, plus a little extra, I urge you from the bottom of my heart to give a little of what you have to someone who does not.
Whether it’s time or money, someone, somewhere, will appreciate it. If you’d like to volunteer, zillions of organisations are looking for people just like you, and a quick Google search will almost certainly bring up somewhere right where you live. In London, charities such as St Mungo’s are looking for volunteers in all sorts of roles, all year round. Crisis runs a special homelessness project over Christmas, and needs thousands of volunteers at this time. If you’d otherwise be spending Christmas alone, this is a great way to stave off loneliness, and get that feel-good glow inside.
Thank you so much for reading my posts. This journey has taught me so much about myself, and so many people have said really lovely things about my blog. I appreciate it a lot.