Breast Cancer Haven

Happiness hacks #5: Carry loose change for that charity bucket

A charity bucket collection taught me a big lesson about kindness.

Earlier this year, I stood in a Breast Cancer Haven T-shirt on a cold evening outside a London tube station shaking a bucket and I watched as people hurried by and looked the other way. 

My bucket was light, but my heart heavy at the thought that people with their fine suits and pristine handbags were so busy rushing to get through the barriers that they had forgotten how important a little bit of kindness can be. 

Standing there, invisible to the steady stream of commuters, was more uncomfortable than delivering a charity speech to a crowd of more than 7,000 festival goers. And that was scary! 

Ask me if I would do it again, however, and I would say absolutely. This has nothing to do with the awkward glances and rolling eyes and everything to do with the Big Issue seller who came to ask me the reason I was standing there. 

He listened to my story. He told me his story. And then, completely unprompted, he emptied the entire contents of his pockets into my bucket. I nearly wept. Friends have since suggested that I should have stopped him. But, for those who understand the happiness that comes with giving, I wasn't going to be the one to deprive him of his moment. 

After my shift had finished, I went to find the seller to thank him again and buy a Big Issue out of my own money in return. He was gone. 

I wrote to the Big Issue to pass on my thanks. Without a name, we couldn't identify him. I have passed that station most days since. I have never seen him again. 

I hope that one day I will be able to return the favour - although, in many ways, I am not sure he would want me to. 

Until that day, I will continue to pay that generosity forward.

I, too, have put my head down and scurried past undetected when faced with a charity bucket collection. Not any more. 

Because of his act of kindness, I carry a pot of change with me everywhere I go. 

This is not just to support the charity asking, but to acknowledge the selfless act of the bucket collector, a symbol of kindness in a society that all too often chooses to look the other way. 

Now, seeing a collector, puts a spring in my step.

I hope that, by carrying a bit of small change in your pocket, it will do the same for you.