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Can one person make a difference?

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Lesley Hibberd

Spring 2016

Can one Person make a difference… ? Well I am about to find out.

I wanted to share with you how doing one act of random kindness can change who you are. Just before Christmas last year I popped into my local supermarket. You know how it is, I just wanted to get some strawberries, I think it was. Well fifteen minutes later I was standing at the checkout with a basket full of things, most of them very naughty but nice, after all it is Christmas. Now I come to think about it I don’t think I got the strawberries!!!

Oh well. So there I was standing at the checkout and in front of me was this little elderly lady, she was 83 actually. She had brought all those little life luxuries like bread, milk and tea bags etc. Her bill came to £19.81p and she only had £15 on her and she was getting into such a state over which luxury item to put back. Initially I said to the young girl at the checkout that I would just pay the extra but I did not have any cash on me. I ask you who goes shopping in a supermarket with cash these days, apart from little elderly ladies of course. Anyway, long story short, I just ended up paying for her shopping. After all £19 odd was nothing to me but it was a big deal to this lady. We had the obligatory 10 minutes of her insisting I took the £15 she had, me not wanting it, back and forth you get the picture.

So in the end she went on her way home with her shopping and the £15 and I went and got back into my car not thinking anymore about it.

I was sitting in my car just getting ready to pull out of my parking space when I saw this young shop assistance, from the supermarket, come out into the bin area and I watched him throw away several bags of food. In that moment something changed in me. I remember sitting there and thinking this is not right. That elderly lady does not have enough money to buy her food and here they are throwing a load of stuff away. This is just not right. I went and spoke to the young lad and he said that the food was ‘past its sell by date’ and they had no choice but to throw it away, it was the law. Fair enough I thought, after all the law is the law.

I got back into my car and I settled in for my one-hour drive, as I was going to meet up with a friend. Now being at bit of a thinker (AD) I could not get out of my head what had just happened and the more I thought about it the more it bugged me. However, I just kept thinking ‘what can I do about it’, but it would not leave me. By the time I got to my friend’s house, I was so incensed I just blurted out what had happened. She told me about a TV programme all about food waste. I had a look at the website and there was a link to an organisation called FARE SHARE. They work in conjunction with supermarkets and food companies and coordinate food collections, which they pass on to organisation who feed people who cannot afford to feed themselves. They had a Christmas drive so I volunteered and helped with a food collection. I really enjoyed it and I felt like I had ‘done my bit’. But again it was not enough, I could not let it go and I had to do more.

I sat at home one afternoon and it was a bit of a struggle, I don’t mind admitting it. There was a lot going on in my head, could one person make a difference, what could I do? Did I really want to start this; after all I am a busy person? Each time I tried to talk myself out of doing something it just kept chipping away at my mind. It was like an annoying sister who would not shut up. What did not help was that I had not long finished the Quest Master Practitioners course and Trevor had said during one of his inspirational talks, explaining that there are lots of things out there bigger than us and that something we do today can have far reaching consequence even a 1000 years from now. I did not know what I could do but I was going to try and do something.

So I came up with a battle plan, for those who know me this won’t come as a big surprise. Firstly, and I never thought I would say this, but the law is an arse. The more research I did on the waste from supermarkets, the angrier I got and leaving them to self regulate was not working. I found an article on how the French had just passed a law making it illegal for their supermarkets to throw food away and not only that but they must pass that food onto organisations that can use it to feed people. Why the hell have we not got something like that in the UK? So I made an appointment to go and see my local MP. Now I must admit I was not expecting too much, after all he is a Tory and his background is in banking. I don’t mind admitting it I was wrong. He was very helpful and true to his word and as we speak we are in dialogue about what the government are doing around this.

However, the wheels of government turn very slowly and this may take years but I am not going anywhere. This is great stuff and all well and good but it’s not just the government’s responsibility. We as a community have to take responsibility. I kept asking myself ‘what I am doing?’ So far I had donated 6 hours of my time, which did not seem nearly enough. So I started something that I am really excited about. Remember I asked the question, ‘What can one person do?’ Well it turns out a lot. Out there are lots of people wanting to do something but not knowing where to start and by me simply putting up a video post on Facebook has led to what could be something really special. Friends put me in contact with their friends, who in turn put in me in contact with various local community projects. As I result I have been in contact with a whole network of people all doing their best to make a difference.

Out of speaking to these people came an idea. What if I could get my local school to turn some of their land into an allotment? Get the kids to grow fruit and veg. Harvest what they grow and with donations from supermarkets, the school’s catering department in turn could cook that food and then invite the elderly of the community in to share it with them. It would bring the elderly and the young together. The kids could show them how to use email, social media etc. and the kids would get so much from listening to elderly.

This was just an idea I did not have a clue how I was going to pull it off but you know what every time I hit a wall, someone would come into my life to open the exact door I needed. A friend I used to work with when I was in the police contacted me, his current role is to help set up community projects and so I have the met police on board. I was having trouble getting into my local school. I went to a party on Boxing Day and the niece of my friend is deputy head girl at the school and she is in charge of setting up a community project. She spoke to her deputy head and I am going to pitch my idea at the next school council meeting and they are already very interest. I was not sure if the supermarkets would get on board but when I was on my foundation training course for the Red Cross (that’s another story), I meet another volunteer who is taking over the post of allocations officer with Fare Share in Kent. There is still a lot that has to come together before this becomes a reality but I have a feeling that it will.

You never know what you can do, what you are capable of, what is possible until you try. Go on try it. One simple act of random kindness and see where it leads you. It could just change your life as well as that of others.