Opinion

What our vendor Lee could teach Liz Truss about compassion

Poorly thought-out plans can trip you up, as the government has found out in recent weeks. But instead of blaming others for your failure you could, like Lee, try to find a way to bounce back better

Vendor Lee Welham on a space hopper

It was slow going for Lee on his marathon bounce

Our colleague Lee Welham had a spot of trouble enrolling for the London Marathon. Lee sells The Big Issue in Cambridge. He’d planned to compete to raise money for a disability charity, but there was an admin issue. Not one to shirk a challenge (Lee recently organised a sell-off with the Archbishop of Canterbury, then interviewed him post-event in a punt on the Cam), Lee decided to try something else. He’d complete the marathon distance. On a space hopper. 

He planned, over a few nights, to cover the distance on, I repeat, a big orange space hopper. After completing an admirable stretch of eight miles, give or take, on the first night, Lee conceded that perhaps the idea had needed more thought ahead of the act. Next time he wanted to do something for charity, he said, he’d grow a moustache. Or shave his head. Or do anything else. 

Despite Lee’s after-the-fact thoughts, and the outcome that they brought, was there really much less consideration given to his decision to do 26.2 miles on a space hopper than the current government have given to their huge financial decisions and delivery in recent weeks?  

You can argue that Liz Truss’s top team have been working on a trickle-down/growth ideology for 12 years, but beyond a desire to quickly implement that ideology, was there any deep thought into the actuality of the moment? Was it REALLY any less spur of the moment than deciding to get on a space hopper? Surely, if it was, after 12 years there’d have been something that wouldn’t have had such a terrifyingly damaging impact on the economy. 

And was there as much care for society as Lee showed in his plan? 

Lee is a man who makes his living selling The Big Issue. He’s very good at it. And he’s also a fine advocate for Big Issue, organising events like the one with the Archbishop and telling sundry locals about the many benefits Big Issue can bring – personal and societal; how it can help and allow people to help themselves. It’s clear right now that this help is increasingly needed. When Lee realised he couldn’t do the thing he’d planned in order to raise money to help others, he decided to find a way around it. He didn’t blame or finger-point or confect a coalition who were piling up against him.  He found a positive solution. 

Lee’s story brings buoyancy. Which is welcome as we remain in a tense state of confusion. Will the government prevent those most in need from having enough to see through the winter? Will they move to make benefits rise with inflation or keep pushing the idea that those on benefits are mostly on the make? In reality, a majority are in work. When even the boss of Shell is arguing that energy firms making big profits should be taxed more, the government insistence on the opposite becomes ever weaker.  

Perhaps it’s time this latest Conservative leadership found a space for some compassion as the winter draws in. It would be refreshing if they stood up for that. Nobody would bridle. Though given they are casting around for ideas, it could be that next week’s new policy is that the country must get out and about on space hoppers. It’d warm us up. And it’d also get Britain moving. Double win. 

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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