I always thought it would be the making of my career when I'd be greeted on a first name basis in my local (Brixton) Starbucks. 'Clare' or as my coffee cup stated on a daily basis, 'Clair' - 'how are you today? you well?' 'Just the usual, a medium caramel macchiato, please.' Within a week of working in London I had turned into the person I never thought I'd be....a coffee drinking Starbucks regular. My purse and my self-constraint let out a sigh in canon - it was almost as if it had been rehearsed without my knowing.
Now now, pitchforks down coffee lovers. I am on your side. Coffee is delicious. It's warm, and comforting, and injects you with that bit of enthusiasm that every worker needs on a cold, frosty Monday morning after you've elbowed your way through enough commuters to make a heavyweight wrestler weep. Truth be told I never touched the stuff until I landed a three month work placement in Italy, to this day I am still unsure how I endured the painful all nighters and essay stints that go hand in hand with studying for a BA and MA in English, but we'll blame that on ignorant youth, and say no more about it.
Yet, there was something that disturbed me far more than paying £3.20 for some lukewarm coffee with caramel covered cream on top.
It was walking past the homeless man under the bridge as I tottered off to the office every morning. When I started my job back in November, giving a donation of some spare change and a bottle of water every now and again seemed helpful. And yet it didn't seem quite so useful as it grew colder, and the winter began to bite, and it didn't take long until I started to look at my single-handed hot water coffee cup with a feeling of guilt and selfishness.
'Why not, let's go for a medium'....I've got the cash. And yet this guy whom I saw day upon day didn't have enough money to find somewhere warm to find shelter. It chilled me further than a lukewarm coffee ever could.
When it's leading up to Christmas and excitement is in the air, anticipation is aglow, and the adverts start rolling from let's face it, mid to late October, the anxiety surrounding getting prepared and buying enough presents to sink a battleship of rhinos (though why you'd want to do this, I'll leave to you) is all anyone seems to think about. Granted, the pressures of not having time to select perfect presents for my loved ones weighed down on my mind like a tonne of boulders, but the worry of all those who won't have a place to sleep, or any warmth or food this winter perturbed me even more.
Which is why I self coined a new initiative that I am keen to adopt again next year, and I hope will encourage others to do the same. 'Coff up for Crisis' - where instead of spending a catastrophic amount of money on coffee and a temporary buzz of energy and excitement, I'd save my pennies, for one whole month, and donate to Crisis UK. So far I think I've saved just short of £100....£100.
That's just from one person, based on one mediocre coffee per day....thinking of the impact that caffeine addicts could have if they did the same left me a little dry mouthed.
Drinking coffee in the office now and again, or instead just drinking good old fashioned water, who knew it existed?, was a small effort for me this month, but I hope it will make a bigger difference to Crisis and their remarkable efforts that I hope will long continue. Growing up as a child I strongly remember this burning desire to donate whatever pocket money I had left (after a raid of Woolworths' Pick'n'Mix section) to anybody I saw sat in the cold, on the streets of London. I remember the frustration of not being able to help everybody, and that I could never get to know their story. This inability to reach out to everyone angered me and made me feel helpless - but I hope that by giving up a tiny bit of luxury for a few days of the year and donating what I can to a worthwhile charity will bring someone some positivity and warmth this Christmas.
After all, it's cold enough out there on a December's day without having to endure the cold hearts of judgement and lack of empathy.
'Coff up for Crisis'....I really hope that one day I'll be able to say "you heard it here, folks."
For more information on how you can donate or help Crisis, their website is http://www.crisis.org.uk/