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Sunday, 20 December 2015

WALK ON BY

One Friday last Christmas something happened.

I was coming home after a cold hard day – I take a train, usually with a friend, and we gossip the whole way, it makes the journey shorter. We trooped out of the gates chattering away, in the middle of the crowd of people in a rush to get home, and I noticed a girl.

She was in a dead space next to the ticket office, a stretch of grey concrete wall, pressed up into the corner.
She was very young, about sixteen or seventeen; medium brown hair, glasses, non-descriptive clothing.
She was also crying.
She was huddled agaist that wall sobbing.

I nearly walked past.
I’m not proud of that.
I nearly walked past her; and up that ramp leading out of the station, and into the street, smelling of roast chestnuts and caramel walnuts and lit up with thousands of Christmas decorations.
Hundreds walked past, and I nearly did too.
It would have been so easy, just let that human river sweep me past…

And then I imagined it was my daughter, my girl, alone in distress in a crowd.
We walked up to her, my friend and I, and I asked her if she needed help.
She kept shaking her head: no, no, no…
“Are you ill, should we call the Police?”
“Do you need to call anyone, here is a phone, use it, call home…”
The more we tried to help, the harder she cried.
My friend asked her if she had been robbed, or if anyone had frightened her.

Did I tell you she was very young?
She was: also not one of those hip teens.
She was well and neatly dressed, but not a fashion victim.
She was fresh faced and sweet looking, her hair tied up in a pony-tail, carrying a school bag.

Finally she said:
“I don’t have enough money.”
“For the train?” I asked, “how much are you short?”
“60 cents.”

You cannot imagine her agonized shame.
60 cents.
That was all.
I gave it to her.
She was shaking and crying and she swept past me and ran to the Ticket Machine.
She ran up the ramp to the platform, and she was gone.

In these times we are living in, how many people are there in distress, too ashamed to ask for help?
How many times do we walk on by?
How hard can it be to stop?
Yes, there are many taking advantage, sponging off the soft-hearted; but so many more are genuinely in need, and sometimes that need is ridiculously small…

The usual excuse is: “I’m not rich, what I can do won’t make a difference…”
Neither am I.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
But I can tell you something, my 60 cents made a difference.
A young girl got home safely.

If we could ALL reach out, just once, with as little or as much as we can spare, we can make a difference.
If all you can spare is a hug and a smile: go on, give them.
We CAN matter, we can change things.

Life does NOT turn on a dime - it turns on love.
We have that power, so please don’t walk on by, not today.
Please.

Manuela Cardiga

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