How can we hope to understand something we haven’t experienced? Why should we expect others to understand? It’s difficult to see people struggle. Initially, we want to help, but then compassion deserts us and we begin to judge.
We make assumptions based on our own lifestyles and can’t understand why ‘other’ people don’t work harder, don’t try harder. We succeeded. Why can’t they? We overcame our personal struggles. Why can’t they? We kept our families together – safe and secure. Why can’t they?
Thus the world continues to spin in a cycle of misunderstandings. There are always shadows, places where the sun never shines.
Marriages break up for a multitude of reasons. Research shows that infidelity is not the only reason for divorce. It’s amongst a long list of other contentious issues.
Poverty is high on the list and that’s hardly surprising. Long term unemployment leads to arguments and dissension in the home. Children suffer amidst the rows and arguments. There is neither joy nor peace and often no hope.
Here in the West, we often malign the unemployed and complain they get too much help from the government. If you’ve experienced unemployment in any country with basic unemployment benefits, or no benefits at all, then you know the cold reality.
It’s not a choice to be unemployed. It’s not a choice to see your marriage crumble. It’s not a choice to be unable to get medical care for your family. It’s not a choice.
You stink of desperation. People avoid you. They are afraid you will ask for help. They are afraid you are contagious. You wonder if you’ll ever experience happiness again. The battle to survive continues. Smile and the world smiles with you. Weep and you weep alone
“My name is Oliver. I know the world doesn’t want to see my pain, or hear my story of destitution, but it’s carved in blood on every road I walk on. I have left a trail that will never be erased.
Long term unemployment with absolutely no money coming in, is why my marriage broke up. This is the reality. When you can’t afford to put food on the table it makes you feel totally worthless. It causes discord and rows and the whole family suffers under the stress.
If any one of the family is ill medical treatment is not an option. You simply can’t afford it.
Initially, every single job you apply for you expect to be successful in getting it. You don’t care how low the salary is – any income will help. Yet again you feel a failure when you’re not successful.
Your belief in God totally deserts you. A broken marriage. A broken home. A broken spirit.
Desperation makes you beg family and friends for a loan. You feel ashamed. Don’t condemn me.
Debts have mounted up. There seems to be no hope. The debt courts beckon and my sense of helplessness increases.
After well over a year I get a job. It’s better paid than previous jobs I’ve had, but still not enough to clear the outstanding bills. The struggle continues and I have to fight a mental battle every day not to let it overcome me.
During Covid restrictions the electricity and water supply were cut off for days on end because of unpaid bills. The car needed repair. The cooker no longer worked – broken. But I didn’t have the money to fix any of these problems. All I can do is take it day by day. I don’t remember the last time I felt joy and wonder if I ever will.”
I HAD A DREAM
“My name is Sara. We had a dream. We bought a small two bedroomed apartment. Although we couldn’t afford to furnish it, we were happy. Then my husband had an accident and could no longer work. There was no help so I worked from home stitching designer jeans, I expected the universe to bless us all. I worked long hours into the night. Neighbours complained about the thrumming of the sewing machine. I could no longer meet my quota.
My children sleep on bare mattresses. We were grateful to have a mattress at all. Now I scratch around for any work I can find, sometimes able to top up the electricity meter, and buy the cheapest food. I couldn’t afford to send our children to school. I couldn’t afford to buy school uniforms. Our small apartment was repossessed and we moved in with family, five of us sharing one bedroom.
We were told to pray. We were told to have faith. We were told we were lazy. We shrunk inside our skins, avoided looking at people. We didn’t want to see the condemnation in their eyes. We didn’t want them to see the desperation in ours.
And the candle burned down, the hot wax dripped and slowly the flame flickered and finally extinguished. There’s no reason to celebrate life. Step by step, day by day, we struggle on – daring not to hope. Anger – frustration- helplessness – but never any joy.”
I STAND BEFORE YOU
You clothed me when I was naked and the cold winds had ripped off my skin.
You fed me when I was hungry, but my body unused to food rejected even that sustenance. You tried to soothe me with words of comfort, but I could no longer understand what they meant. You held me in your arms, but I shrunk away in fear.
I stand before the world with bent head and shoulders that can no longer carry the burden of my shame and sorrow. My hands reach out – but there is nothing there.
IT’S EASIER TO LOOK AWAY
Is it easier for the world to bear judgement than to empathise? Fear sets the boundaries of our emotions and we prefer not to acknowledge or see anyone’s struggle or pain. It’s easier to look away. It’s easier to believe that laziness is the cause and that people can get a job if they really want to.
I hope this Xmas, Santa Claus sends bags filled to the brim with compassion.
I have written two novels available on Amazon