By Dr Rick Norris, reprinted from The Big Issue.
Last week I was walking past Westminster Cathedral and stopped to by a copy of the Big Issue from a friendly chap, Mark (not his real name) and we struck up a good conversation about some of his personal challenges which he was dealing with in a pro-active manor with great fortitude and a little help form one of the priests at the Cathedral.
As I walked on I noticed how many people were sprinkled around the cathedral enjoying the sunshine, I also noticed how few customers approached Mark. I had this sudden urge to stop and stand on a bench and like the orators at Speakers Corner talk to those people about why they should have been forming an orderly queue to purchase a copy of the Big Issue from the cheery Mark standing only a few yards from them.
I wanted to give them the following message:
‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to take a couple of minutes of your time to say a few words on behalf of Mark who is selling copies of the Big Issue today. Most of you don’t realise what a wonderful opportunity Mark is presenting you with today. Mark is here to offer you two things and all he wants is one thing in return.
For the modest price of £2.50 Mark is offering an excellent read, a magazine that stands alongside any other in its ability to entertain, inform and challenge. The second thing that Mark offers you today is the opportunity to experience a warm glow. It’s the warm glow that accompanies an act of altruism; a kind act for a fellow human being.
Buying a copy of the Big Issue is not just a commercial transaction; it is a personal interaction with one of our fellow human beings who needs a hand up not a hand out to quote the Big Issue strap line. Mark, like every Big Issue vendor is working to earn a living, he is an entrepreneur backing himself to make a small profit to fund a more stable life-style. We have an opportunity to help him do that and if we take that opportunity we are entitled to the warm glow of altruism we’ll feel when we buy our copy of the Big Issue. So, ladies and gentlemen what is the price of a warm glow? Nothing, it’s free with every copy of the Big Issue. Thank you.’
I’m ashamed to say that I was too English, too introvert and too cowardly to stand up and make that speech, but if anyone else would like to use my words please feel free.
Dr Rick Norris