The centre of the universe

It’s not the norm for me to post on Sundays, but this is a post that deserves to be written as soon as possible.

On Friday evening as I ventured into town, I saw many new University students. The Freshers were grasping Sainsbury’s bags, laden with various cans and bottles. They were inevitably making their way to pre-drinking parties before the big party at the end of Fresher’s Week. I wasn’t going to this party. I was heading to the grounds of Winchester Cathedral to take part in The Big Sleepout.

We arrived, registered and listened to the welcome speeches about the event. We then went to the sleeping area. Many groups who had arrived earlier were drinking and laughing, tucking into the hog roast and browsing the stalls. It was a party atmosphere. We lined our own area with black sacks and laid down the sleeping bags side by side. The witty conversation and piles of sweet treats did make me feel at ease, like I was camping. Even when we retired into our sleeping bags, I felt optimistic about the night ahead. The full moon was shining brightly and the starry sky was beautiful to fall asleep beneath.

But sleep evaded me. Even with our blanket of bin bags, the grassy ground offered little comfort. I was constrained by my sleeping bag but I didn’t dare leave the safety of it. The Cathedral bell tolled frequently, dragging me back into consciousness just when I was on the brink of sleep. But the worst obstacle was the cold. Although my body was insulated, my face and hands were not. I stuffed on gloves and pulled up my hood. I rammed on a hat and pulled the brim over my face. But the biting cold that centred its attack on my nose kept me awake. Eventually, exhaustion overcame me and I secured a couple of hours of precious sleep.

In the morning, I sat up and surveyed the scene with bleary eyes. Participants were eating bacon sandwiches and cupping mugs of tea. It was then that I realised that this activity was not about me. This was not about my comfort and preferences. This was not about making myself feel smug by undertaking charitable acts. This was not about my own satisfaction. It’s about sharing what you have, your time, money and self, in order to benefit others. Not just when there is an organised chance to do so, but whenever and wherever possible.

It’s my birthday tomorrow and I’m turning 21. It feels correct that I learn that the world doesn’t revolve around me just before I reach this milestone birthday. I have become more aware about the different lives of others and have raised my own consciousness about people and sharing. How very grown up of me.

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