It’s World Mental Health day today. And in a rather roundabout way, that’s brought me to thinking about an amazing man whom I met a few years ago.
Three years ago I was sitting at the traffic lights minding my own business when a lorry drove smack into the back of me. I couldn’t drive anywhere and so I got out of the car, and as I got out I realised that I was clearly more shaken than I had at first thought.
As I left the car, there facing me was a Big Issue vendor who proceeded to take me under his wing. He gently guided a shaken Nina through getting all the details from the driver of the lorry, phoning the AA, cancelling my meeting and finally giving me his details as a witness. And then as we sat down to wait for the tow-away car, he told me all about himself.
Like so many people in the UK, this man had struggled with his mental health for the majority of his adult life. In working with the Big Issue, he had found a certain level of peace. He told me that he loved making contact with people and having something not too stressful or time-based to focus on. The stability of the Big Issue meant that for the first time in a while, his relationship with work was relaxed and what many of us would describe as mindful.
As the AA arrived, we left each other to carry on with our days. Later I made a resolution: that, in his honour, I would always buy a magazine from a Big Issue vendor.
But recently I’ve noticed that I never have any money on me. I go out with my phone and my debit card in my pocket and nothing else. I travel light. Why do I need money? Why do any of us need money?
Whilst it may be convenient for us, a cashless economy is becoming a problem for Big Issue vendors. Many vendors don’t have the permanent address necessary to set up a bank account or the fancy smartphone required for a contactless machine. Our refusal to carry jingling coins has the danger of excluding a whole raft of people from participating in the economy and stable employment.
And so, I’ve made a new resolution: to make a conscious effort to carry at least five pounds with me at all times so that I can help those who can’t yet participate in society as we’ve created it. Why not join me… starting today.
If you buy Life Clubs workshops for your organisation this week (until October 17th), we pledge to run the same number for free for the mental health charity of your choice.