For some time we haven’t done a full serious piece, but today, I saw something that made me so angry I had to. I had to wonder, and I ask you to wonder with me.
In a world of 6 year olds with iPhones, a world of teenagers complaining that they only get £50-£100 a week pocket money, I feel a certain rage that is tinged with jealousy. As I know others do, whether they admit to it or not. I was born in 1985, an 80’s baby, I grew up with doing chores for £1 a week. Hoovering the stairs could get us a pound on its own. A hard and torturous job, but richly rewarded, cash for our own devices. To save or spend was our choice. And we were damned grateful for it, reminded daily that there were hundreds of children so much more worse off than us.
We all see the news stories of teenagers with endless gadgets, we see children with unfettered access to the entire internet, uncontrolled and unwatched. Followed by news of robbing teenagers, spoiled children, confused younglings, minds tainted by films, actions, thoughts and ideas designed for adults, not children. Young, impressionable, mouldable and easily led. No one to blame but the adults who refuse to understand that they must step in, they must raise their children, or someone else will.
We see so many things that they lose their shock, their power and the rage they instill in us. 15 years ago seeing news of teenagers stabbing each other would have horrified many, news of people dying shivering in doorways, forgotten by a caring society would have led to angry letters and furious do-gooders. I remember seeing news in my youth, late at night, such tales of horrific murders, desperate acts of revenge and disgusting actions wouldn’t be shown in the morning. But now? Now the news shows at all times, all news available to all ages, at all hours.
We’ve seen homeless people picking through bins, desperate for food and warm clothing, we’ve seen the lost and desperate ashamed of having to use food-banks, never daring to confess their ‘sin’ of being unable to provide for their family. Such a thing was never admitted to. Yet now, people stand proudly taking hand-outs from the state, whole families refusing to work and strive because it’s easier not to. It’s much more profitable to stay at home, not raising their children and not trying.
Yet, today, today I saw something that inspired and horrified me in equal measure. As I left my work, boots thumping the pavement, the rain glistened on the broken bricks, making stars at my feet, leaving me wandering away, thoughtful on my day and musing on what to wear for a dinner with friends. As I made my way up the road, many people walking home, past me. A long day at work done, thinking on what to do for dinner, what their boss is thinking, wondering why their chest hurts, hoping it’s just a pulled muscle, worrying about their family history of heart attacks and cancers.
As we walked, mindless and tired, I heard a crash from the alley way, I looked and saw a family. A youngish couple, faces worn by worry and time, their three small children stood round the giant bins outside one of the local charity shops, picking things out. I walked slowly, not wanting them to feel watched and awkward, keeping them in the corner of my eye, as the father pulled a stuffed toy from the bin and waggled it in front of the youngest girl. The look of joy in her face has never, and probably will be matched. Her little arms extended and took the toy, a simple stuffed dog, it’s ears flopping over her hands, gloveless in the cold. He picked through the bin again, finding other toys, a harmonica here, a book there. All of them going to the three children at his legs, their mother stood by, watching, her face hidden in the darkness of flickering street lights.
I continued, listening to these three small children overjoyed by their simple toys, garnered from other peoples garbage, thrown away by those who didn’t see their value, to be ressurrected by the hands of a caring parental pair. I realised as I walked that I was furious. I furious with the charity shop for throwing away these things that others had donated to help those less fortunate. But I was more furious that no one else seemed to notice. No one else seemed to see, or want to see, this family, brought closer by things deemed as rubbish.
So I walked, the rain falling slowly, lazily onto the earth, listening to the children blow a harmonica, thrown away as it was too difficult to clean in case of germs, listened to children play on damaged scooters and listened to these parents who had so long ago parted with a sense of social dignity, now happy to dig through rubbish bins for toys for their children. I was happy that they had toys, happy at their happiness bur saddened that it didn’t seem to shock anyone else. In an age of the latest ‘must haves’ these children were happy with trash can toys and their family unit seemed all the stronger for it.
Oh, I’m sorry, have I offended you? Upset you with news of unfortunates? Made you look a little harder at all your possessions? Made you wonder if you really need that now gadget?
If I haven’t, then I’ve failed, and I’m sorry. Truly sorry.
If I have, then good. Take a deep breath, look around you? If you’re reading this on a computer that’s in your own home, or a smartphone, then you’re already one of the better off. If you’re eating food that you didn’t have to beg for, then you’re doing at least good.
Deep breaths people, you have air in your lungs, blood in your veins and some small hope, or you wouldn’t be alive any more, you’re doing pretty well. Take comfort, but remember, others need your help.
Be aware, and be told.