A week on the streets

A couple of friends of mine decided to put their beliefs into action in a radical way. They decided to live on the streets of Oxford with the homeless for a week to raise awareness and to raise money for two local homeless charities. The only rules they set were that they would not take free handouts (thus depriving a real homeless person of them).

They’ve been writing a daily blog at http://weekonthestreets.blogspot.com and they’ve been posting video diary entries on youtube.

Today’s blog entry (day 5) was particularly good – on what to do with their time.

As we sat whiling away the evening on a bench in Summertown with our friend Jon, we reflected on the whole experience of the week. Something that has really struck us is the whole thing of how to spend the hours. For us, Wednesday was much more difficult than the other days, purely because we didn’t feel we had much to do. I guess there’s something about life on the streets that makes it hard to pretend that sitting around all day is a clever way to spend your time. You kind of have to face up to the reality that just making enough money to get by is pretty easy but spectacularly unfulfilling. What is there that’s worth doing with the rest of the day? And I guess, for many, the answer is getting drunk or high or trying to sleep with someone.

Maybe in our normal lives it’s much easier to pretend that whiling away the hours is a good idea – we can cushion it with movies and video games, hours on facebook, watching [a soap opera -] neighbours, or reaching for that goal of the slightly bigger pay check, the slightly better car, the girl that’s just out of reach, the slightly more comfortable lifestyle. Yet what is it that’s really worth spending our hours on? After all, a string of hours is all we’ve got in some ways.

What is worth spending time on? If we only had, say, four hours left, what would we do? It’s an interesting thought. But I’m guessing that we wouldn’t spend it playing video games. Isn’t life about more than simply filling our time? How do we find a purpose worthy of pursuing? What a lot of questions.

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