The Mind Doctor: No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted, writes MAX PEMBERTON
- Max Pemberton was moved by this weeks’ episode of Rich House, Poor House
- One family had a weekly budget of £121 and owed £11,000 on credit cards
- The rich house, after living their lives, paid off the credit card bills for them
- Pemberton says people want to be generous but think they don’t have enough
- He says even helping out in a small way can make all the difference
The hardest of hearts could not have failed to be moved by this week’s episode of Rich House, Poor House — not if the reaction on social media is anything to go by.
For the uninitiated, this hit reality TV show features two families with very different circumstances, who swap homes and lives for a week to manage on the other’s budget. And on Wednesday, there was an unexpected twist.
The Timmins family — Ross, Sarah and their two children from Cornwall — had a weekly budget of £121 and owed more than £11,000 on credit cards.
He worked in farming and she was a hairdresser, but with bills and monthly repayments, they were sinking ever further into debt.
Max Pemberton says Britons want to be generous but think they don’t have enough, but he says even helping out in a small way can make all the difference
The family they swapped lives with, vets Colin and Lizzy Whiting and their children, enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle on £1,235 a week.
However, after experiencing the Timmins’ lives, the Whitings were confronted for the first time with the crippling impact of debt and the spiral of misery it can cause.
So when they moved out of the Timmins’ two-bed housing association property to return to their own spacious five-bedroom farmhouse, they left a cheque to cover the credit card bills.
Cue lots of tears from Sarah Timmins — and an outpouring of praise on Twitter.
It was an extraordinarily generous thing to do, and it got me thinking. I’m sure many of us would like to do something similar for others in need, but few of us have thousands to give away.
And I think there’s an assumption that because we can’t make a grand gesture, there’s little of use that we can do at all.
But so many times I’ve seen patients whose lives have been changed by something small, something simple — and nothing better illustrates this than what happened when I was working with homeless people a few years ago.
There was one young man in his early 20s who had absolutely no one in his life. His father was in prison for murder, his mother, a drug addict, had died.
At the age of six he’d been placed in foster care, and it later emerged that he’d been abused by his mother’s boyfriend. He had no qualifications, nothing going for him in life.
And I think there’s an assumption that because we can’t make a grand gesture, there’s little of use that we can do at all, he says
He started using drugs, had got kicked out of the hostel he was living in and ended up on the streets. It is a story I’ve often heard: no love, no stability as a child and a wound so deep that nothing can heal it.
This young man also had schizophrenia, there were concerns about his mood and he was deemed at high risk of suicide.
I saw him as an emergency, and it’s fair to say that when confronted with a patient like this, your heart sinks. Where do you even start?
He shuffled in, avoiding eye contact. We started talking and I asked him directly if he’d been thinking about killing himself.
‘Every day,’ he said. ‘Wouldn’t you if you were me?’
So I asked him if he’d made plans to follow through?
He shook his head. ‘I couldn’t do it to Becky,’ he told me. ‘She’d be heartbroken.’ I was confused. No one had mentioned a partner or friend.
Eventually, he told me. Becky was a commuter who, on her way home from work every day, would speak to him.
‘She never gives me cash because she says I’ll use it for drugs,’ he explained, adding, with the ghost of a smile, ‘which I would.’
Sometimes, you don’t need to make a grand gesture. Little acts of kindness can make all the difference to someone in need
Becky spent only ten minutes or so with him while she waited for her train, but would often buy him a coffee or sandwich and would sit with him on the station concourse.
‘It’s funny,’ he told me, ‘she’s got a good job, but she always sits on the floor next to me.’
Becky was a fixture in his day. For her, perhaps, it was an insignificant event, a casual moment of kindness and humanity in the bustle of a working day.
Yet for him, it signified something so much more.
I suspect Becky had absolutely no idea of the importance of her act. But she had given him a tiny glimmer of hope — and a reason to keep on living.
She’d shown an unloved young man whose experience of the world was one of harshness and cruelty that there was some warmth in it after all.
Sometimes, you don’t need to make a grand gesture. Little acts of kindness can make all the difference to someone in need.
Source: Read Full Article