A guest post by Maria Ede-Weaving.
Each day there seems to be news of yet more cuts to our public services; the ongoing austerity measures – on top of the poverty and hardship that many currently face – has me thinking a good deal about how to retain a sense of abundance and gratitude in such times of obvious lack. Retaining a sense of gratitude – remembering to be thankful for the little things – helps enormously but I have to admit to a cold, creeping fear when I think of the cuts and their potential impact.
I recognise beneath this fear my own terror of being plunged back into that dreaded place: barely scraping by; living in damp, cold, cramped spaces; not feeling safe or secure… I did it for many years and I know how easy it is to get stuck, and of how, once there, you can become an easy target for the prejudice and ill-judged assumptions of others.
There has been much talk about the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving poor’ in our media. I find the often simplistic evaluation of those that should be supported and those that shouldn’t, extremely uncomfortable. For those who have experienced poverty, they will know well how demoralizing and tough it can be. The notion that there are countless, feckless ‘scroungers’ receiving state benefits and living in undeserved luxury is the kind of tabloid myth that we’d do best to ignore. Living on the breadline brings with it a good deal of stress and worry; gnawing away at one’s trust in life and the faith that it will sustain us.
In the poorest moments of my past, I know I was in possession of things of extreme value and worth; things that poverty couldn’t touch: love, friendship and the desire to create. So why is my fear so great and my sense of trust so shaky? Mostly, regardless of where we find ourselves, we survive and live without perhaps realising the cost. It is when we experience a contrast – when we escape from chronic poverty or difficulty – that we are perhaps required to engage with the challenge to embrace our new, easier life, enjoying it without the fear of losing it. I have to admit, this is one I have struggled with, trying hard not to feel that the rug will inevitably be pulled out from beneath me. Now that money is once again tight in my own life, I have been searching for those inner resources that can uphold us, regardless of external circumstance.
I am sure many people are feeling similar thoughts at the moment. We can all make the decision to react as positively as possible to the difficulties that confront us but we are also subject to wider social and political forces that are beyond our control, and it is these that we somehow have to negotiate, balancing what we can change with what we can’t.
I believe in the fundamental goodness of life and of people, so trust is obviously the best horse to bet on. In times of fear and worry, I often turn to my childhood copy of The House at Pooh Corner by A.A Milne. I thought I would ask the book for guidance and open it randomly, here is the result:
The wind was against them now, and Piglet’s ears streamed behind him like banners as he fought his way along, and it seemed hours before he got them into the shelter of Hundred Acre Wood and they stood up straight again, to listen, a little nervously, to the roaring of the gale amongst the tree-tops.
“Suppose a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”
“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought.