On Tuesday night, Li Fang, Yasmin, Woon Yee and I walked down Strand for our outreach session. We all agreed it was a good session as the conversations we shared with many of them were so real, so vulnerable and inspiring.

One of the more memorable conversations we had was with a man we met in the underground at Charing Cross Station. He was with another man who appeared to have been talking to him for some time. As we offered him hot chocolate and some snacks, he was visibly happy. We squatted in front of him to listen to his story, occasionally through the other man’s translations as he apologised for not speaking English so well. His eyes started welling up in tears as he shared about the struggles he had gone through trying to seek help from day centres but not receiving any; and scrambling to wipe away the tears falling down his cheeks, he told us how it was tough having been homeless for some time now and that he did not want to live like this anymore, wishing to end his life at that moment. He also talked about the nasty people he had met while being homeless. The emotions he shared were so real and so honest.

Many times in our conversation, he told us how grateful he was that we were there. “Thank you, sister, thank you.”, he repeated multiple times as he reached out both of his hands to shake ours, eyes beaming with gratitude. There were light-hearted moments too, as we shared jokes and laughed together. Towards the end, we could feel his spirits lifted from when we first talked to him. The other man with him shared that he had been here to visit him the past few weeks, and he had been in a bad condition as he was feeling depressed. He told us that if people like us and himself were not there to give him some love, it was difficult to say what he would have done to himself. This love we shared could keep him going for a while longer.

Indeed, seeing the homeless on the streets and thinking we do not have the ability to help them, sometimes it is easy to forget that they too are humans and other than physical needs, they have emotional needs as well. Being surrounded by so many people walking past yet still being ignored, mistreated and alone can feel terrible. Just having conversations with some of them showed me how human they are, equally capable of love, gratitude and giving. As we offered a lady we met some hot chocolate, she politely declined, saying “I’m fine, thank you. I think John over there will have some.” Some others we saw shared their food with their homeless friends, and sometimes even offered us the food. Physically they may be poor, but their hearts are still rich with compassion.

That night, I learnt that what we can give from inside the heart matters so much more than what we can give from the pocket. It is true that many of us are constrained physically by what we can give, but as long as we give with a genuine heart, I believe those receiving it can feel the love, and that little love can go a long way.

Written by Anita Chan