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Paying it forward

This week I heard about the death of a lovely lady I have known for the last 10 years, since becaming involved with a project named 'Café Simon'. It is a café for mainly homeless people or those staying in bed and breakfasts or hostels.

Over the years there have been some people who come for a while then disappear, and others who will come for a long period of time. This lady, who I will call Margaret, was a regular attendee for many years from the days when I first became involved.

The Café is actually a room at the rear of a Catholic church called St Simon's, in the West End of Glasgow. A charity, by coincidence called Glasgow Simon Community, had been providing soups and sandwiches a couple of evenings a week in a lane at the back of the church. The priest offered them the use of the room and Café Simon was born.

Around this time I had spent three months in Namibia with Raleigh International volunteering. I had been fortunate to have a place on a Millenium Award expedition. Part of the conditions of this was that everyone involved pledged to do 100 hours of volunteering in their own community when they returned. A few of us were keen to do something as a group and so became involved extending the service to include a Saturday.

The reason I always think of Margaret is because of the many acts of kindness I remember being shown to her. Margaret was quite frail even in the early days, and came to the café for company as well as lunch. She lived fairly close by and her only relative was a daughter who also had poor health and died a few years ago. Other café users made sure she had a seat near the door to save her legs, and a young man who came regularly in the early days often came with a bar of chocolate or something for her. When Margaret became too frail to come on a Saturday, some of the staff who volunteered at the café continued to visit her at home then in a nursing home, and finally in hospital. Two of the volunteers who knew her were with her at the end when she peacefully slept away.

My point in writing about this is however is because being involved with this has reminded me of a film from a few years ago called “Pay it Forward”. It told the story of a young boy who did three good deeds for others and all he asked in return was that they did the same for three other people. Over the years various people have helped me at the Café when needed. My two sons, my nephew and my 78-year-old mum help each time I am on at the café. A lady that was a patient and now lives many miles away sends me a big parcel every year after Christmas full of goodies for the café. A lovely lady in her 80's who I know through work has been doing home baking for me each time I am on duty for at least five years now. Her brother used to get her some supplies from the cash and carry from time to time and he wondered how she was going though so much. When he found out he then donated some of the baking ingredients.

Like many charities in recent times Glasgow Simon Community has struggled, and last year they withdrew from Café Simon. Since then the volunteers have run the service with the support of the church and also some help from another charity one of the volunteers is involved with.  The soup and sandwiches every Saturday are provided by the Glasgow Buddhist community, on a Sunday an upmarket Deli nearby provides the soup and sandwiches, and on a Friday night we have a few groups including a local school involved.

So I hope you can see how this small project reminds me of the film, and the many acts of kindness that have been a result.