Have A Nice Chat With A Chugger

Courtesy of iambillal.wordpress.com

Definition of a Chugger? According to Urban Dictionary: ‘Paid “charity” street worker (read: student) who has been trained to believe that they are carrying out a worthy task, improving peoples’ lives by conning Joe Public out of their money for this week’s Good Cause.’ Yup. The guys in the bright blue/red/green/yellow charity t-shirts holding a clipboard who smile maniacally at you from about 300 yards away as you approach them in the street. There’s not many other people around, they’ve honed in on you and you know your fate. Are you going to avoid all eye contact with them and mumble something under your breath along the lines of ‘noooooooothankyou’ or are you going to plaster a smile on your face and listen to them speak for a good five or so minutes. Well, for once, I opted for the latter and, actually had quite a nice encounter.

I normally avoid these people, usually because I am actually in a rush to go somewhere and frankly I don’t want to be talked at for minutes on end. I do support charities and I don’t necessarily agree with being ambushed in the street. I also feel sorry for the people trying to collect money/inform the public – although they know what they’re letting themselves in for – because they will mostly be avoided and totally blanked all the while having to look unnaturally happy all day long (most of them anyway).

However, yesterday afternoon it felt like more of an effort to try and pretend I hadn’t locked eyes with the guy working for St Mungo’s charity (a charity working to help educate the homeless and get them off the streets and into jobs) – so I thought heck, why not, and stopped for a chat. To make things better, he had complimented me on my intellect (I was carrying lots of Henry James novels from the library) and my dimples. Flattery, sometimes, gets you everywhere. Anyway, I actually had a very nice chat with this guy. He told me that 70% of those that are homeless have mental health problems (I guessed 50-60%) and explained all the positive work St Mungo’s does to better their lives. As soon as he knew that I was a student, he said that he wouldn’t ask for money, as they only ask for a donation from those in full time work. I actually wasn’t carry one bit of change, but the fact that he didn’t hassle me for money or guilt trip me actually made me want to donate and now I wish I’d had something to offer. After learning about St Mungo’s, and him asking about what I was studying and why I was carrying so many Henry James novels, I pootled off to continue with my day. The guy was charming and interesting and, if nothing else, a nice conversation with smiles aplenty was had by two perfect strangers. And that doesn’t happen very often.