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Food for Thought

homeless-robbie-from-preston I am someone who likes the feeling of fullness. I am always eating. I buy food for one so I am guilty of contributing to our massive problem of food waste.

While I scoff myself and throw half-eaten food away, others are so starving that they dig into bins for something to eat.

I am talking about the “hidden homeless” that we walk past every day. I recently saw a programme about this desperate group of people called “Where am I sleeping tonight?”. The hidden homeless are not registered as homeless and therefore do not receive additional support. Those that sofa-surf (sleep on friends’ sofas) or sleep on the streets because they feel safer there than in hostels.

Research by the homeless charity Crisis indicates that as many as 62% of the homeless fit this category. For every month that the respondents spent in accommodation provided by the council, they had spent over three months sleeping rough.

There are estimated to be 1 700 hidden homeless people a year. The documentary really opened my eyes to something I had no idea about in my sheltered existence (literally). They lived with so little, not knowing where they would sleep at the end of the day or whether they would be safe. They were completely dependent on the goodwill of others just to stay alive.

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It could have happened to any one of us if we had been less fortunate.

One boy of just 17 had struggled with anger-management issues and had beaten up his family until he got kicked out. He wished he could turn back time or that they could see how he had changed.

Another boy had fallen out with his mother, who then moved away leaving him with his grandmother. She fell out with him so he had to go. He said he hadn’t eaten for about a week and his eyes bulged with ravenous desperation as he waited in line for food, white as a sheet.

A girl was sofa-surfing as a messy divorce had made home hell. She said it had been friends at first, then friends of friends and then people she did not know at all. One man had tried to make a move on her and she had to find somewhere else to stay that night.

These vulnerable young people seemed to have little or no chance of escaping the endless cycle of hunger, cold and sleep deprivation.

Once someone I knew did a sponsored rough sleep for a homeless charity and he said it was he hardest thing he had ever done. He did it at the start of winter and he didn’t sleep at all because he was so cold in his sleeping bag and the concrete was so uncomfortable. homeless

The programme got me thinking. Surely there is something we can do to share the wealth. I have been brought up with everything and I take basic needs like food and shelter forgranted.

I have given food to beggars before. Just extra food that I will not eat or snacks like cereal bars. They are always gratefully accepted.

But I want to do more.

I am planning on buying a full lunch for a homeless person so they can at least have one proper meal that day.

I will get a sandwich, a flapjack (more filling than crisps) and some fruit. Perhaps a hot drink to go with it.

I want to start a movement like the famous “Pay It Forward” one. This one involves buying food for the needy. Some incredible people already do.

So how about you join us, reader, and buy a homeless person a sandwich.

If you do it let me know how it feels. When I have donated before I have always felt content. It is a feeling that only helping someone in need can bring. A deep satisfaction that you are making a small difference in an indifferent world. The Gift that Keeps on Giving

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The Magic of Music

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“Musical” wrote the piano examiner and I nervously represented my teacher at a pupils concert.  When I was a baby I had a piece composed for me because I would stop crying whenever my parents’ friend played the grand. Today I was reminded what an emotional difference it can make.

My parents were being negative at each other and I’d tried unsuccessfully to intervene. Suddenly I decided why not play some tunes. I’m not talking aboutimages (2) turning on the radio and cranking it up – our tastes are completely different and this would probably have exacerbated tensions. But we all love the sound of the piano. So while they separately sulked I played dad’s favourite composer – Mozart. Then I played one of mum’s favourite tunes by Ludovico Einaudi, who I am exited to be seeing live next week. 2549108_f520

By the end of the pieces mum and dad were still in different rooms but both were smiling and looked more relaxed. The power of music astonishes me. When you’re tense it helps you relax, you can express your feelings and it’s a tremendous release. But it also has a ripple effect amongst your audience – as the sound washes through them you often see them sharing the mood. It allows you to take a step back from your busy life and lose yourself, even just for a moment.

Playing an instrument has been proven to be good for the brain, increasing intelligence. It has been shown to increase IQ by seven points, so it’s good not just for relaxing your mind when you study. The piano is my constant companion. Unlike man’s best friend the dog, it needs no feeding or expensive vets bills, just the occasional tuning. It may be but an object, but it is always there for you no matter how you’re feeling. Reading music is a skill for life and an instrument can be yours forever. When I was younger, piano lessons and practice were chores. But now I am pleased my parents encouraged me. The foundations were laid for me to build on and the better you get, the more engaging the manuscript.

Music can unite, it’s a common language and says so much more than words. So if you’re feeling angry, if you’re feeling upset, listen to some upbeat music or play a piece you can get lost in. It won’t solve deep-rooted problems but it will help you deal with them better.

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