It’s the simple things in life we so often take for granted. Like that feeling of real contentment when your feet are warm and snug tucked up in a cosy pair of socks and slippers on a cold winter’s night.
For some having warm feet isn’t a luxury they can afford, nor is being indoors somewhere safe and dry. This is sadly the case for many sleeping on the streets in our towns and cities.
When Amanda White encountered a homeless person whilst out Christmas shopping last year, her generous donation at the time caused her to feel somewhat uncomfortable and gave her much to think about over the festivities.
She knew it wasn’t the answer and wanted to help more than one person living on the streets of Bristol. She wanted to give a real gift to those in need this Christmas.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda for this blog, so I won’t give too much away, instead I will let her tell you the story of The Sock Project.
Amanda, how did The Sock Project come to be?
I was out Christmas shopping in Bristol last year. I was on my own and it was getting late in the day. I had nearly finished buying all the bits and pieces I wanted to get, and as I walked down the road, I passed a homeless gentleman making up his bed for the night.
I sort of noticed him, but like so many of the people passing by I kept walking. My attention was quickly drawn to those around me who were wistfully looking up at the sky as the first flakes of snow began to fall.
I love snow. It’s kind of magical, and everyone in their wonderment seemed to be enjoying this special moment. However, for me it didn’t feel very special at all. My first thought was about the man I had just passed making up his bed for the night in a cold doorway. He was going to be sleeping outside with freezing snow as his blanket, enduring bitterly cold temperatures.
I instantly turned around and walked back to see him. He looked completely surprised when I handed over a £20 note. I remember saying to him “please promise me you will use this to sleep somewhere warm tonight” and he said he would.
Giving money as opposed to some food or a warm cup of tea, goes against everything I have instilled in my children to do when it comes to offering support to the homeless. It was however instinctive, I just wanted to help a lonely soul who was going to be out in the cold.
Later that same day I was sat eating supper with my husband and son, and I was still mulling over my encounter with the homeless man. I began to feel hugely uncomfortable with what I had done, and I confessed to my family.
It all sounds a bit dramatic, however all sorts of scenarios were playing out in my head about how the man may have used the money. I was feeling really responsible because I could have potentially contributed to a deterioration in his condition, or worse.
What happened next?
My encounter that day stayed with me, and it gave me much to think about over the festivities. I am enormously grateful and fortunate to have lovely Christmases each year and at the time I just couldn’t think what I could do as a small gesture that might help those living on the streets.
Fast forward a few months to the summer of this year, and I decided I would give the local homeless an actual gift this Christmas. This idea was almost definitely inspired by Gift Frippery and all the gift wrapping I do. Although I very much wanted it to be a practical gift, and socks seemed to be the most sensible idea. What is it they say? “if your feet are warm, you feel warm all over.”
Where did all the socks come from?
I originally thought I may get 50 or so pairs and therefore 100 would be good a number to aim for. I wanted it to feel like a real gift that you or I would get on Christmas morning and I planned to gift wrap them all.
I reached out to my local business networking community, as well as friends and family, and I have been overwhelmed by the response. Gradually over the weeks more and more have flooded in, and people’s generosity has been astounding. I’m currently on 420 pairs with more due in any day.
My natural instinct was to pretty everything up and make every gift gorgeous with all my frippery. However, with the enormous number of socks I had collected I had to rethink this given the task in hand. It also occurred to me that the wrappers may end up on the street and I wanted them to be recyclable.
When and how are you going to deliver them?
We have a date planned, and myself and my friend (who has helped to wrap them all) are going to go out in Bristol and deliver them in person.
Unfortunately given the number we have successfully managed to collect, I am not going to be able to hand deliver them all. Although I will give out as many as I can because I very much want to be able to have the time to stop and chat with people should they want to.
Caring in Bristol have kindly agreed to distribute the rest of the socks for me. They are a wonderful local charity that do a fantastic job of providing vital support to the homeless people of Bristol.
Inside most of the socks are a couple of chocolate coins and some of them have a hand-written message in them too. When I first started collecting socks, I held a #socksfortea event at my home. I invited friends and colleagues to come over and have a cup of tea in exchange for socks. I also set them to work, with piles of paper and pens at the ready, I asked them to write a message to pop in each of pairs of socks. In one of the pairs is a note from me. A note that I have written anonymously and will tell someone the story of why I created The Sock project and how hundreds of people have come together and donated to make it all possible.
The great thing about socks is that they are so valuable, yet so affordable to most. I have been completely humbled by people’s generosity and kindness, wanting to help and contribute to this project. I might have had the idea, however it’s those in my local community of friends and network that have come together to make it happen.
Will you do it again next year?
Is The Sock Project a thing now? I haven’t really made my mind up yet whether I will do it again next year. Although it is clear from the response I have had that everyone wants to help in their own small way, so if I can make it happen, then maybe I will.
Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your story about The Sock Project. This feature story is something a little different for the Being Truly Me blog, however I love to share stories of courage, bravery, and kindness. Stories of people doing extraordinary things in their everyday lives to help make a difference. Stories that inspire, bring joy and light into the lives of others.
Until next time, be truly you.