I went to the Job Centre today to hand in some papers on behalf of someone I care for. The sight close up of the people there overwhelmed me. We all know the general story of how “these places” are full of people who are unkempt and drunk or smoke and into drugs. But up close, looking at the people upset me so much. These are a large proportion of our population who do not get seen or heard in the “middle class” columns we write for ourselves nor are they represented fairly in the media. TV channels occasionally have programs about poor people but rarely with compassion.
The women were almost all of them overweight. They all had hair dyed in various hues tied tight back in a practical pony tail or bun. Tattoos peeped out of their clothing at their neck or their waist or their arms. The men all looked like they had a bad hair day and they looked lonely and you could see they were just about trying to cope with the new technology of screens and buttons. The whole crowd was cowed and docile. There were of course large men in tattoos and white shirts standing around.
The staff I noted were very efficient and very kind. After all, these were the only authority figures that poor people in need could turn to. The people were not abjectly poor in that they did not have food to eat. But they were in a limbo state where a crisis could happen at anytime to throw them over the cliff. When the crisis does arrive they had not the mental, physical and financial resources to cope and not be hurt and wounded.
The people who I saw were in need of nurturing and caring. I hope I am not being too patronising here. The women had to be in groups where they would learn practical common sense lessons in child care, in finance, in cooking and nutrition; they should have lessons on how to get out of the desperate cycle of constant spending to keep themselves happy; they should be given knowledge of how to take pride in themselves and to be content. But all the time they have to prove they are looking for those non-existent jobs while looking after children. When do they get time to attend yoga or meditate or to cook nutritional food for themselves? The men too, despite their pride, had despair on their faces and they went through the motions of going where they were told, pushed buttons, and made phone calls as they were told, all the time knowing it was a waste of time, that nothing will break them out of their cycle.
You might wonder what all this has to do in a lifestyle blog. But in an all encompassing approach to health and lifestyle we learn lessons in all we see and hear. Serenity in our own lives I find is enhanced if we can have compassion for our fellow human beings.