Opinion: People are essentially decent

Organiser Martin Stone (right) and volunteers at Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen on Sunday, March 15. Pict

Organiser Martin Stone (right) and volunteers at Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen on Sunday, March 15. Picture: André Langlois - Credit: André Langlois

On Sunday I gave £4 to someone who was begging. Aren’t I quite the hero?

Feeling good about myself, I went into the supermarket and bought a bottle of vodka as a form of minor middle class stockpiling.On the way out I was wrestling with my rucksack and approaching my bike when I heard someone shouting. I turned and running up to me was a woman waving the wallet I’d dropped.

It struck me that some kind of karma was at work – but I don’t believe in karma. The simple fact is that most people are essentially decent – worth remembering every time it feels like society is on the brink of collapse.

Some people would have taken my wallet, most wouldn’t.

Personally I’m often rather selfish but even I will put my hand in my pocket on occasion. Many people in the community are doing far more already, and that’s going to be important.

Later on Sunday I met Martin Stone, the organiser of Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen, who would no doubt (and probably correctly) tell me that my £4 generosity could have been better directed towards organisations like his.

Martin and his team have reacted to the changing situation by adjusting the kitchen from a restaurant-style model to a takeaway. It means they should be able to carry on serving a growing community for the foreseeable future. It’s impressive

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I’m sure many readers will have become part of support networks, ranging from simply introducing yourself to your neighbours to joining groups on social media or local organisations. When David Cameron coined the focus-grouped marketing slogan Big Society, this is probably something approaching what he envisaged. But necessity is the mother of invention, and as deep as austerity went, it could not match this necessity-generation.

Speaking of austerity, whatever else comes of all this, the country must now build a system of social care worthy of the community feeling evident today.

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