Last night a team of 300 Blankets volunteers and I volunteered with the Vinnies soup van. The weather was typical gloomy winter Melbourne night – freezing cold with on-and-off pouring rain. Running into the kitchen to escape from the rain, I was pleasantly greeted with the high spirits and laughter of the wonderful Vinnies volunteers preparing food for the night. The positive energy in the room blocked out the terrible weather we were about to face.
As mentioned in one of the previous blogs, a lesson learnt on my first outing with the soup vans is that people experiencing homelessness has not only lost a permanent place to call home and their material possessions, but many have lost their families, their friends, their pets, and very quickly life can become lonely. Although we focus on providing the warmth of blankets, we must not forget about the power of the warmth of friendship. So a personal mission of mine, and what is encouraged with our volunteers, is to create mateship when we go out.
The 300 Blankets team was split up with half going to the boarding houses and the other half (myself included) to the streets. I met many people I have had contact with previously and it was wonderful to have a good chat with them as they got a bite to eat and a nice warm soup. And then I met “John” (“John” is a pseudonym to protect his privacy).
Looking cold, wet, and hungry, John approaches with his head down as I was handing out delicious hot food generously donated by Tasty Trucks. Noticing that he required more than just a feed, I attempted to start a conversation. Our small talk eventually turned into a passionate banter about AFL and our love for the Essendon Bombers. It was an incredible moment.
John’s mood and body language from when I first saw him had transformed completely. We were genuinely laughing as we celebrated our great victory against Carlton from the previous week. John opened up about his day and week. It was only until we were interrupted as we had to move to our next location that I realised how long we were talking for and the friendship we had just created. As I was leaving, John excitedly said he will share his notes of this coming week’s game with me when I see him next week. I no longer saw John as a cold, wet and hungry man and I can’t wait to meet up with him next week after we take on the Gold Coast Suns. This is the power of the warmth of friendship.