Good deed no #134 - some heavy lifting
I’m feeling pretty achey today – but in a good way. I spent yesterday doing my good deed for the day by helping out at Emmaus Gloucestershire. It’s a community where around 30 men and women live and work in a number of different large-scale charity shops.
My first job was assembling flat pack with no instructions. Luckily, I had Davey to help me – he’s become a bit of an expert in the time he’s been at Emmaus. We got it put together, but the next part of the task was humping the wardrobe into the showroom to display it. Then we had to rearrange the room so that everything looked its best – testing my strength, and artistic flair!
Luckily, my background is on the shop floor – I work for House of Fraser now and I spent some time at John Lewis too. In fact, one of the hardest times of my life was when I was working on a management training scheme down in London. I had been living in a flat but when the tenancy came to an end I wasn’t sure where I wanted to live, so I started sofa surfing – a couple of nights here, a couple of nights there.
At first it was alright, I’d get up and be at work for 9am the next day, bright and smiling. But one day I’d been away for a day of training. I was due to stay with a friend, but when I got there, she’d forgotten. The doors were locked, the flat was dark. It started to rain. My phone was flat, and even if I’d had battery I didn’t know where I would have gone. As I huddled in the doorway, trying to keep dry, I started to cry.
I was lucky. At that point, I decided enough was enough and I was able to come home to Gloucestershire and my family, but many other people don’t have that luxury. That’s where Emmaus fills an amazing gap, by providing people with a home and work, for as long as they need it.
One of the things that really hit me yesterday, was just how happy everyone seemed to be here. I was speaking to one guy, who just a couple of days ago was out on the streets. He was happy because of the basics. He had a mug of hot tea in his hand. He had clean clothes to wear and a room to sleep in. To most of us, that might seem like nothing, but to him it was everything.
Emmaus gives people a place to stay, but it’s also much more than that. It also encourages them to take part in ‘solidarity’ – doing good things for other people. This is pretty much like my pay it forward, good deed diary idea but on a massive scale.
For me, the idea came after I had a good friend pass away from cancer last year. The care she received from Marie Curie was astonishing, these weren’t just people ‘doing their jobs’ – they genuinely cared about her. The flow of visitors to her bedside was inspiring too – she had been kind to so many people throughout her life that they wanted to come and return the favour.
I was inspired by my friend – and slightly more cheesily – by the movies Julie and Julia - where the character decides to blog every day for a year about her cooking adventures, and Pay it Forward, where the little boy tries his best to change the world by helping other people, after his teacher sets him a project at school.
I decided to blog every day about my good deeds. Some people have knocked me for it, but I say that firstly - it’s a way of keeping me to my resolution - how many of you have failed by the 20th of January? And secondly, if I can inspire one other person to follow in my footsteps then that’s great. How many days go by when you don’t do anything nice for someone else?
It’s been a bit like starting an exercise regime – no one wants to go to the gym every day, but you always feel better afterwards. Well, it’s the same with good deeds. I can’t claim that every day has been easy (134 so far) but I can’t believe the support I’ve received and the people I’ve met. Later this summer, I’m even going in to a primary school to give a talk on how to be kind. Who would have thought that my life would become like a movie?
If you've been inspired by Luke's story you could pay it forward by doing something for Emmaus. Doing something for those in greatest need has always been at the heart of Emmaus's ethos - read more about our founder, and the original solidarity story.