McDonalds Cheeseburger - © McDonalds Canada

McDonald’s Incident Raises Bigger Issues

Fans of this blog will recall the outrage on the internet when a homeless man in Vancouver had water dumped on him at a Tim Horton’s in Vancouver by an officious employee. Now, a similar event at a UK McDonald’s has folks asking questions about basic human rights…

Pengelly and Polly - © Jonathan Pengelly via Facebook

I would not normally post on a story like this one, except for the broader implications of the incident, brought to our attention by a good Samaritan who stepped in and brought all involved back to reality.

The story goes like this. A homeless woman in line in front of Jonathon Pengelly (pictured left, with his new friend) at a McDonald’s in Cardiff, Wales, asked for a cup of water. She was refused by the counter attendant. The woman, who identified herself only as Polly apparently just turned away dejectedly and started to leave the store. Pengelly said, wait a minute, and took the situation in hand.

“I don’t know what was going through [the counter attendant’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!” he wrote later on Facebook. “My heart was shattered! So I spoke to her and told her to order what she wanted, expecting her to order everything. I was so shocked. She asked for a single cheeseburger and that was it…”

Pengelly actually took the woman and another homeless person on site home and helped them get cleaned up. And he gave her another meal, too. They needed it. And he wondered why the fast Food giant had been so callous to the poor old gal: “It costs nothing to be kind, and I genuinely hope people share this to raise awareness of homelessness throughout the UK!”

McDonald’s, UK, hastened to point out, in a statement, that it has, “absolutely no policy about banning or failing to provide water for homeless people.” The statement also assured one and all that the incident would be investigated. But that all sounds pretty lame when one is cogitating upon the larger issues – the basic human right to clean water and wholesome food.

But Pengelly also questioned the humanity of his fellow Cardiffers and, by association, all of us: “You know(,) if people of Cardiff walked passed (sic) them and didn’t do anything because, financially, they weren’t in the position, I would understand. But people walked passed (sic) and laughed at them.”

Oddly, there is no explicit declaration of a person’s right to a cup of water under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; But I believe the issue is more than adequately covered under Article 25, paragraph 1) :

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Even more oddly, neither the Canadian Charter nor the U.S. Bill of Rights contains a guarantee of a reasonable standard of living for all. Maybe we should start asking why.

I’ve bought homeless people cups of coffee and burgers. I’ve worked in the kitchen at the Ottawa Mission full-time, helping to feed more than 1,200 homeless folks a day. I’ll continue to do the right thing.

~ Maggie J.