I used to watch the news, but now, not so often. When did that change? I used to know who was at war with who and what kinds of horrors people were inflicting on each other each day. Now I find the news is on when I am struggling to get dinner on the table. It’s the absolute worst time of night to take anything in; the kids are clamouring at the counter, sometimes they are needing school letters signed or doing their last minute homework. Our family is large and at that time of night there are five or six of us in the dining room. Sometimes, if the homework is done, I’ll try to be a broader citizen. I put the news on and turn the sound up. The chaos and cacophony reaches crescendo. I turn it off. I should probably record it and watch it after the kids’ bed time. But after bed time is so deliciously quiet and zen… (who am I kidding! ‘I just need some water!’/ ‘I’m going to the toilet!’/ ‘Just one. more. cuddle!’ The latter always works ‘cause I am a sucker). What I mean is, after they go to bed, it is my time. My time with my hubster; if he’s not working. My time to let go of all the day, disengage and coast. I don’t want to see the torment of the world out there or carry the pain of those children or shake my head at the follies of youth or tut about some new journalistic low. I don’t want to think at that time of night. I need to chill out.
I deserve it.
Or, I’m baking and the choc drops are calling my name. I pop a few in my mouth. Why not? It’s me making all the bakey effort, and I hate baking. I’m not even going to eat most of these cookies. I slave and they get wolfed down in a day! Humph. Gone in a flurry of after school famish. All my efforts. A few choc drops is the least I should have, really. Should be the whole leftover portion. After all, I deserve it. Then, it’s 2.45pm and I need to get my skates on for the school run. A coffee, yes, a coffee might be nice… maybe there is time to call in at the cafe on my way out? I’m ordering and I spy that gluten free raspberry friand, so far superior to my humble mum creations, beginning to bounce up and down in the display cabinet. “Hey, Rach! You’ve had a hard day’s morning! Eat me! I will solve all your concerns. I will soothe all your achey woes. Eat me!” And I make friends with that little friand. It would be rude not to, and after all.
I deserve it.
Or, I’ve been in bed most of a week, conserving my energy for the bare minimum. It’s been miserable. I feel like a little pick-me-up. So I have a little guilty look over on the Book Depository website, again. Just window shopping. I believe I should support local sellers, really. I know I’ve spent more than enough on books in the last wee while, but something new to read? Why not? I have to put up with this stupid illness day after diabolical day. Most of the time I keep the whinges inside my own head. It bites. I add books to my cart. Just a way of grouping my favourites together, I tell myself. Like a neat little pile. I see a new audiobook that would be great for the kids. I can justify that one easily. In fact, they need it. Good for their learning. I click through to the confirm order page. I ignore the total and tick the boxes. What?!
I deserve it.
Where I grew up poverty was a smell. A rancid odour of uncleanliness. A reality you couldn’t ignore. It slapped you in the face and demanded action, notice, emotion. We lived in a third world country and down on the riverbanks behind our home was a squatter settlement. The most common sound I heard from that settlement during the daytime was the sound of children laughing, splashing in the river, jumping off the bridge. A toy worthy of envy was a tyre, toted alongside by a stick, wheeled beside its’ proud owner; belly pushing against skin, malnourished. Dull eyes and scabby skin. Clothes worn into a polished brown sheen of dirt. Singing. Walking. Feet hardened and yellowed and soles cracked. A wide, woolly headed smile that could crack open the hardest heart.
I think about those kids and I am reminded. We are born fortunate. We arrive here, our lungs swell and we shout for attention. We take for granted the care we get. Food, warmth, love. We grow in our warm cocoons, surrounded with the comforts of modern life. Water from the taps, light from the switch, rest from the bed, free education, help from the doctor, subsidies, special programmes, trade agreements, interest rates, infrastructure, welfare.
After all, we deserve it, don’t we?
We don’t deserve anything.
Our rights are not in fact, ours by right.
Nature can give and nature can take. Circumstances destroy. All we think we own and know to be ours can be gone in an instant. It happens all the time.
But don’t take it from me, you can see it on the News.
I don’t deserve the fruits of my labour or the benefaction of the garden. I don’t have a claim to this beautiful free country, clean air, real food. It’s not mine by right, this home, these people I love. I am splendiferously fortunate. I could have been born into the squatter settlement behind my childhood house. I could have contracted an illness far worse than my own. I could have been childless. I could have been alone. I could, like millions of women and girls, have been sold into slavery. I am a whisper of fate away from another set of circumstances at any given moment. I don’t deserve it; all that I have. But I accept it.
And when I remember to think about how undeserving I am, I am grateful.
picture credits TV3 NZ and nationalgeographic.org
view an incredible TED talk that made me think.