I was on a bus going past the canal, lost in my thoughts. I noticed a building I liked that I’ve never noticed before.
I got lost on my way to St. James’s Park station, lost in my thoughts again. I walked my way to Westminster, welcomed by Big Ben as the only source of light.
I’ve been to see the Foreign Office feeling like a child on Christmas morning, and I cried in St Stephen’s Hall.
It’s not that I don’t love London, because I do. I love London the way you love someone you’ve been married to for a long time, when the spark is rare and it’s easy to get annoyed at them for not pulling up and putting down the toilet seat. Or whatever.
It’s no longer the excitement of the first dates when you didn’t see each other for days and then you go out and it’s amazing. I see too much of London, and I see its menial side. The overcrowded tube and people stopping in groups on Oxford Circus as if nobody really had to go to work there so that they could enjoy their very slow shopping.
That’s what happens when you are stuck in a low wage job just because people keep telling you that it’s better to have one and look for something else, even if then you’re too tired because you’re overworked, and really lack the time for that. I confess my mistakes so that you don’t have to repeat them yourself.
You won’t have the time, the energy and the money to go on a date with London, and what is free you’d be too depressed to enjoy. You wish you separated (at least living in two different houses, not filing for divorce) so that you could have a better chance to enjoy your time with London.
These were my feelings when Team v’s new campaign was launched. The hopelessness and desperation of feeling trapped. I would have bailed out if I were class 2015, and the fact my year’s first campaign was The Sustainable Generation is one of those coincidence that I believe are signs. Everyone who knows me knows my involvement in environmental issues, I’m a Catholic girl in the end and of all the years spent in the Church what I brought home were Catholic Social Teachings and a feeling of uselessness when I’m not giving away my pocket money in Lent so that the missionaries can build facilities for poor children in Africa. My late grandmother raised me not to waste the food on my plate, one of those potentially damaging things done out of absolute goodwill. Think of the children who have nothing to eat at all, she would say.
So, when the campaign was revealed, I found it too contentious for me to be able to take part to it, too much at risk of being politicised even if I knew how hard they work to avoid that, and I was glad it wasn’t my assigned campaign because Team v has been a life-changing experience for me. I’m probably in the bracket of people that would be considered poor in this country, yet I try so hard not to embrace this mentality. Maybe it’s easy because I’m a single woman, and I don’t have to provide for my children on two low incomes and benefits, with them looking around and seeing children who have things they want, but they have to stick to whatever I can come up with the little I have because we can’t afford those treats. I don’t know. I just don’t like the idea that anyone in one of the richest countries in the world can call themselves poor when people die of starvation somewhere else. They’re not poor because they’re not alone.
I’ve read The Jubilee Roadmap with a growing feeling of “OMG someone understands me”. This is a booklet from the Jubilee Centre we were kindly donated as part of the IMPACT course. It offers an insight on what Biblical society can teach our post-Christian one. Far from advocating a return to the faith, it shows very practical issues and very little ideology.
One key thing they stress about is relationship. Poverty is not just financial. The categories considered more vulnerable to poverty were “the alien, the fatherless and the widow” (Deut. 24:19). The whole system for those people who were not marginalised was designed to keep communities together. You had a family to rely on, and if things were really hard, you could lend your work or sell your land for some time. The law protected you from people taking advantage of this.
So I joined the Hunger Challenge. My family has always been very keen to donate to food banks and never failed to donate stuff of the same quality that we would buy. Not the savers’ brand for them, and the good branded beans for my father.
It may be for the wrong reasons, but I believe it’s important. It may help those who are used to plenty of food and especially snacking to see things in a different perspective. I’m more often than not having my lunch out of Food For Life so the parcel seems like plenty of food to me, but it doesn’t matter. It’s not just about changing people’s perspective on what most take for granted. There’s a similar challenge to live within the means of a poor person in a developing country, and that’s really a challenge to me. My food bank parcel for 3 days cost me more than double what I could spend in that challenge for 5.
It’s important because we need to help people in need so that while the impersonal big economic abstraction called the market fails them repeatedly, society won’t. We’re in a country where the army of a corrupt government doesn’t go to steal goods that have been donated to help the poor, and foreign aid money isn’t blown away in expensive cars and drugs by the dictator’s son. We have a long way to go to ensure to those who can work that their work pays rather than pay them enough for the expensive transport they need to get there, and those who can’t work are supported. I’m not saying that’s not the case. However, I joined the challenge with the gratefulness of a 21st century young woman in the UK who would have somewhere to go if she didn’t have those 12£ to buy the parcel herself. It’s important that this doesn’t go forgotten, so please donate to your local food bank as much as you can. Many are under threat.