New Roots Café – September 7th 2011
“Can you spare some change please? I’m really hungry.”
“Er, I’ve only got a note… We can go get you some biscuits or something from that shop if you want.”
“Can we get a Subway?”
“A Subway? Mate, I don’t have enough money to buy myself a Subway.”
“Can you just give me some change and I’ll get the rest off someone else then?”
“What? No, I’ll get you something from the shop though.”
“I have to go.”
Well, trying to explain to a homeless person that I’m so penniless I couldn’t possibly shout him a ‘Chicken Temptation’ was certainly one of the more obnoxious things I’ve done today. But this modern day fast food fable illustrates the knots you can tie yourself into by trying to do the right thing when it comes to the not-so simple task of helping someone in need.
Perhaps he has a habit fuelled by harder chemicals than those contained within your average Sub of the Day and is in the process of executing an elaborate Dickensian ruse to extract hard cash from your unwilling pocket. Possibly, the guy just wanted a meal more filling than biscuits and was pushing his luck. Maybe, just maybe, it was his absolute heart’s desire on this rainy Wednesday afternoon to chow down on some processed chicken. In which case I really should have just sucked it up and brought him the sandwich.
Co-incidentally, I was on my way to New Roots Café in Burngreave for the 5.00pm free meal provided for ‘individuals and families who are suffering from poverty or destitution’. As I’m not suffering from either of those things, I would be paying at least the £2 suggested donation that goes toward funding next week’s meals.
Everybody’s on level ground here. We sit around a table and eat ratatouille, chickpea curry and chips. Fruit and drinks are laid out too. Portion size is personal preference as the ladle is in your hands, but there seems an unspoken agreement that you take what you need and not more.
I’ve come with Adam, a law student, and we get into a conversation with Mark. His age, nationality, job status, and living situation isn’t revealed or particularly relevant. Instead I spend a good hour trying to get my head around the meat and potatoes of their in-depth discussion on international politics, and I learned a lot.
I’d happily come here every week for the good food, good company, and the co-incidental good deed. The place itself is a big splash of yellow across Spittall Hill; just a ten minute walk from town. You can’t miss it if you’re up that way, and you’d be missing out if you didn’t spend some time there.
And apologies to the fellow I didn’t buy the Subway for.