Some underestimate the homeless by forgetting that they are regular human beings who have pasts and stories of their own. Many ignore the homeless. Some may offer some spare change, but it’s rare that someone will take the time to have a conversation with a homeless person. When one Welsh man did just that, he was shocked to discover who he was speaking with. He was especially taken aback by the humility of the woman and her friend, who was also homeless. What started as a typical night out led to a surprising turn of events. Read on to find out what happened.
Meet Jonathon Pengelly
The guy with the backward cap and a crooked smile is Jonathon Pengelly, a Welshman. Like many young adults, he enjoys a good time out on the town with friends.
After a few years of going out, you more or less know what to expect: friends, games, food, maybe some dancing… rinse and repeat. However, this night would turn into one that many adults never experience. Someone was about to make a huge impact on Jonathon’s life.
He Thought The Night Was Over
Anyone who’s spent a night out knows that it often ends in hunger. Staying up late and moving around inevitably results in a grumbling stomach. However, as the hours tick by the available food options dwindle.
After hopping from spot to spot in Cardiff, Wales, Jonathon and his friends decided to grab some fast food from McDonald’s. The spot was cheap, quick, and seemed like an easy option as their carefree night slowly wound down.
Not Your Typical Night At McDonald’s
Many fast food places will stay open later than your average restaurant. This is for two reasons: to serve the customers who planned to eat late and don’t have another option, and to serve the customers who have been partying all night and have lowered their inhibitions.
As you might expect on a weekend night, many people crowded the McDonald’s where Jonathon and his friends found themselves. However, the line wasn’t just backed up because it was busy.
A Homeless Woman Was At The Register
Jonathon soon realized what the hold up was. A woman was attempting to order something, but the cashier refused to help her. The woman in line appeared to be homeless, leading Jonathon to the assumption that she was trying to get a meal.
He figured that there was only one reason that the cashier would be ignoring her. He thought that perhaps the woman was ordering food that she could not afford. Like others in line, he leaned in to catch what was being said.
She Just Wanted Water
As Jonathon listened in, he discovered that the homeless woman just wanted some water. It appeared that the cashier was denying the woman a basic human right, since all establishments are typically expected to offer free water.
The woman eventually left the counter, wandering back out into the cold with nothing to eat, much less a drop of water. Feeling dismayed at the lack of concern toward this woman, Jonathon followed her out into the cold.
Could He Get Her Anything?
Jonathon approached the woman and asked if he could get her anything. Some people would jokingly respond “a million dollars.” Certainly, a homeless person would likely have a laundry list of things they might need just to make it through the night.
What shocked Jonathon most, and changed the trajectory of his night, was her response. He expected that she would have plenty of requests. For all he knew she might be rude to him, still bitter over the fact that she had been denied water.
Would You Like Any Fries With That?
The homeless woman simply asked Jonathon for a cheeseburger. Surely there must be something else he could get for her beyond a single cheeseburger, though. He asked again if there was anything more she wanted.
The homeless woman said that she did have a friend who needed something to eat. Struck by her humility, Jonathon went back into the McDonald’s determined to turn around the night for both homeless women. He decided that he would surprise this woman with kindness the way she had surprised him.
A Feast Of McDonald’s
Jonathon and his friends each bought as much food and drink as they could carry. The inexpensive meals were a small price to pay to leave an impact on the lives of two homeless women.
They brought the food out to the homeless women and joined them on the sidewalk. Like a family-style dinner, the small group of friends and their new homeless companions ate around a pile of food. Inevitably, the women began sharing their stories.
They Weren’t Used To Kindness
As the group spoke, they discovered that the woman who had been turned away inside McDonald’s was named Polly. She had been homeless for years and living on the streets. She explained just how inconsiderate people could be.
What was most painful to her and her friend wasn’t just being rejected. The truly difficult part of being passed in the streets was that some people made fun of Polly and her friend, mocking them as they walked by.
The Homeless Women Were Not As Expected
One common misconception about homeless people is that they are all lazy and dumb. In fact, homelessness is a much more complex issue than that, as Jonathon and his friends discovered.
He told The Sun, “When I got to speak to them, I was genuinely shocked at their story and how educated they were. So full of life and enthusiasm, and they literally have nothing!” Whatever had landed these women on the streets, it didn’t take away the people they are on the inside.
He Invited Them Into His Home
While some people wouldn’t dream of letting someone they hardly knew into their homes, Jonathon and his friends agreed that it was the right thing to do. They asked Polly and her friend if they would like to come over to freshen up.
Not many consider how foreign a home would feel after years of living on the streets. The warmth, light, and basic conveniences that many of us take for granted are not lost on someone who has been homeless. Polly and her friend happily agreed.
Finally Able To Feel Clean
Once the women arrived at Jonathon’s home, they were able to use a proper, well-stocked bathroom for the first time in a long time. They brushed their teeth and showered, finally feeling the comfort of having a fresh and clean body.
One thing that sometimes causes people to see the homeless as “others” is their physical appearance. Without the typical hygiene routine, they can become unappealing and easier for passersby to ignore. By giving Polly and her friend the gift of hygiene, Jonathon helped bring their inner beauty back out.
Don’t Forget Your Doggy Bag
While the ladies washed up, Jonathon prepared some food for them to take home. Some argue that it isn’t good to give the homeless money since you don’t know what they’ll use it on. That’s why others have found that they prefer to give homeless people food, instead.
Jonathon had already gone above and beyond for Polly and her friend, but he insisted upon offering them more than just a single meal and a hygiene reset. While the food wouldn’t last forever, it would at least offer the women a chance to feel full for an entire day.
Time To Bid Farewell
Here is a photograph of Jonathon and Polly on the evening that they met. You can tell by her warm smile that she feels genuine gratitude towards Jonathon. You can also see in his expression that these women had a serious effect on the young man.
He provided Polly and her friend with warm blankets and pillows and handed over the packaged food he had prepared for them. The true act of humanity left the women recharged and in brighter spirits than before.
He Took To Facebook
After such a pleasant experience with Polly and her friend, Jonathon felt an understandable surge of protectiveness over them. He took to Facebook to describe the evening and was sure to note that McDonald’s refused Polly a cup of water.
He wrote, “I don’t know what was going through [the cashier’s] mind, but a lady, clearly homeless, was asking for a basic human right, and for a multi-billion pound company, for them to say no, is disgusting!”
The Story Gained Attention
Jonathon’s heartfelt recounting of the night went viral, gaining the sympathy of others around the nation. His story was not the first bout of criticism that McDonald’s has faced recently. If they wanted to keep their loyal customers, they would need to respond.
While some would not pay any attention to the misconduct of someone towards a homeless person, Jonathon’s story set a foundation for others to follow. Moved by his story, others made enough of a fuss over Polly’s refused cup of water that it got reporters’ attention.
A McDonald’s Rep Got Defensive
The story gained so much headway that reporters got into contact with McDonald’s over the controversial issue. A spokeswoman for the company assured that they do not have a policy that discriminates against the homeless.
According to her, the homeless are welcome into any McDonald’s location. As far as requesting water, she said that the “vast majority” of those requests are met. While her response didn’t state that handing over water to anyone who asks is a part of their policy, it did specify that kicking out an individual on the grounds that they’re homeless is not policy.
Polly Was Formerly Banned
As it turns out, the cashier had a valid reason to refuse service to Polly. Despite her humble demeanor toward Jonathon, she was on a police-sanctioned list that verified she had been banned from McDonald’s.
The spokeswoman went on to state that the store, as well as other locations in Cardiff, Wales, was working with the police to ban certain individuals on the basis of “illegal and anti-social behavior.” In other words, Polly’s ban was supposedly due to her having broken the law or doing something to disturb those in the restaurant.
Something Seems Off
While the spokeswoman from McDonald’s stated that the refusal to provide Polly with water was her own fault, and not theirs, the company’s response is too vague to know for sure. Since they didn’t provide reporters with an explanation of what Polly did to deserve such a ban, it is uncertain whether she deserved it.
Some, like Jonathon, who have seen the humanity in those severely struggling financially fight to support these individuals. While all citizens are held to an equal code of ethics, some are worse off than others.
Whether Polly was rightfully banned from McDonald’s or not, her encounter with Jonathon is an important reminder that the homeless people are not all the same. Jonathon’s surprise at Polly and her friend was due to his assumption that they were not as humble and intelligent as they were.
If we all considered the fact that any given homeless person might be full of potential that’s been lost on their circumstances, we might feel less compelled to avoid them like the plague. Whether it’s food, blankets, or a cup of water, anything can help those in need.