We all made New Year’s resolutions but, halfway through January, let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. Those new running shoes are definitely just for show and the closest they’ll get to proper use is that ‘half-walk, half-jog’ you do when the green man goes red.
You might think your diet is going well but those post-night out chips and cheese definitely do count, no matter whether you remember eating them or not. And ‘be happier’? Come on, as if you can coerce yourself to even smile at tute sheets.
So this year, we need to make promises that we can stick to, that will actually better our lives and those of others. Being well-meaning is fine until suddenly it’s December and you’re still lying in bed surrounded by crisp packets and self-loathing.
Obviously, Oxford is home to many students but if you actually look up from your Prêt coffee or your textbooks once in a while you might notice that there are other people in the city. Some of these people, for one reason or another, need help.
Specifically, the homelessness issue in Oxford is so explicit that even the most rose-tinted glasses won’t hide the problem, no matter how hard some people try. We spend our days walking past people who have lives, and stories, but crucially no homes.
It can seem, as a student, that this, although distressing, is something not within our control. We may occasionally buy a Big Issue or throw a few coins into a hat, but the feeling of underprivileged guilt, for some people, can prove shamefully easy to swallow down and ignore.
Even for those willing enough to look into their options to make a difference, the thought of dedicating time to anything whilst wrapped up in ‘hectic’ Oxford life is a scary one. It feels like meeting someone for coffee requires rearranging three things, an all-nighter, and cutting two other friends completely out of your life. But is a few hours a week really all that much? Let’s be honest, you probably spend that amount of time each day looking at Buzzfeed.
So, my suggestion is to take the plunge. Sign up as a volunteer at somewhere like The Gatehouse, a cafe for homeless people. People here provide hot meals and drinks for those without a home and get to know the names and stories behind the faces we pass every day.
It’s only a few hours a week and the charity understand that you might only be in Oxford during term-time, so it’s perfect for students (as long as you are prepared to make the commitment). It could just make you organise your time better, forcing you to kick that procrastination addiction, and it certainly will do a lot of good for a lot of people, including yourself.
Information about The Gatehouse can be found at oxfordgatehouse.org