Larry Waller – Christmas 2017 and New Year 2018 –
Let’s make the world a little more level
It’s the 11th of December 2017 and it’s cold and damp outside, really cold (-3 degrees). There is talk of more cold, wet and damp weather coming winter as we would expect. The Day Centre on Becket Street is buzzing with people interacting with each other, talking, laughing, shouting, crying and coping with the trials and tribulations life throws at them. As I walked into the Day Centre at 8.45am today a young man rushed passed me distressed by atmosphere and sheer number of people in the Day Centre ‘I’m claustrophobic’ he uttered as he dramatically charged on to the streets. It was hectic inside that day with forty people visiting between 8.00am and 9.00am. It was busy, bumpy and a little bit chaotic but a great warm, welcoming and safe alternative to the bitter and challenging conditions outside on the streets. A place of safety.
Later that day I’m sat working on yet another grant application in the office and at the same time listening to the constant noise and buzz outside. I hear people generally asking questions like. “Can I have a toothbrush, have you got a hat, scarf or gloves, tea please, can I use the phone, what’s for breakfast/lunch, I’ve been kicked out can you help me find a place? “ All questions asked by visitors to the Day Centre who need help”. There is a constant stream of requests. The requests may seem trivial to some, inconsequential and easily achieved to others and huge, scary and overwhelming to others especially if you are facing the immediate pressure and very real realities of homelessness.
What is very clear to me while I listen, a much maligned pastime by the way, is that all of those seeking help, support and assistance requesting the time, energy and effort of another individual are isolated and often very lonely. All are disconnected from significant others and crucially for me a little lost in themselves. I am plagued with the desire to help. I have no choice in that matter now, and while at times a challenge, I am hardwired to try to find a way to seek a solution to change things. To find a ‘better solution’ for those who seek help from us. What is really crucial is that ‘better solution’ is different for each and every person we meet.
Having worked now for over 20 years helping others in a number of different places my experiences have been varied working with children, young people and families, supporting the work of a number of third sector organisations, helping to win new business for organisations and more recently working to help to reduce homelessness. This variety of experience has taught me much about helping others and has reinforced for me the injustice, imbalance and inequality in our world.
This injustice presently is more visible to all of us and we see the evidence in numerous settings such as; our hospitals with intense pressures placed upon the A & E departments, our Housing Departments receiving more requests for help year on year, our growing crime statistics, our city, town and village centres with increased numbers of vulnerable adults using new and damaging drugs, our emergency accommodation hostels which in the main are full and I could go on and on demonstrating where the system is creaking and wobbly in places, and broken in others.
It really is very simple. We are not in balance as a society, we are not level, and we are presently a kind of awkward unkempt creature that isn’t looking after itself properly. If we personally don’t take care of ourselves we tend to become sick. Perhaps driven by the need to be more, make more and appear to have more. Maybe we need to have a bit less and give others a bit more. If we looked after each other better would we not all benefit? We know society is one big interconnected system and if a number of those parts are not functioning then the rest of that system is negatively impacted.
Our present situation is untenable. While we are in the grips of a misfiring government who is focused upon the bigger crucial strategic work of Brexit it seems the ‘small stuff’ is forgotten. The ‘small stuff’ often ends being those more vulnerable people, those with less power, less voice, less influence and the first to feel the first hand impact of this present programme of austerity. My past and recent experience tells me that our present situation can only be improved by a more collective response, by working together, by increased transparency, by increased honesty, by binding our scarce resources, by not thinking about self protection, by acknowledging that we have perhaps made some fundamental mistakes and by constructively challenging the present situation.
As a nation we are incredibly wealthy and here is the ‘what if’.
What if we as individuals approached things differently, what if we changed the unlevel and made it more level, what if we injected a little more humanity into our decision making.
Ask yourself this simple question? What could we do without and what do we really need? How can we make the lives we lead and the lives of others a little more level and improve the lives of those who clearly need more than we do to achieve even the smallest successes.
What may help? Do we need to contribute more to our system? Do we need to increase the percentage of our wealth to ensure the system is bolstered and supported for the greater good of our society? May I suggest that we do indeed need to alter our view of the world and encourage us all be a little more giving, a little more outward facing, a little kinder to others?
Do we not make life much more complicated in the long term for ourselves with the increased trauma, risk, conflict, violence, distress and overall desperations when people feel like they have failed, are a burden, a letdown, excess baggage, not positive contributors but useless and unwanted.
Surely if we all contributed a little more to ensure that we helped in making people feel more confident, part of the solution, listened to, of value and worth. Can’t we work together to create a world that is a little more level?
If you find the words I have strung together to strike a chord with you, or you think me ill informed then please respond as the dialogue may create a positive conversation and the inspiration of an idea which with nurture may well help to find a solution to ease and inform our present societal dilemma.