When I was at school I was often reprimanded for being a dreamer. I am very pleased to announce that it is a failing that has, above all others, lasted to this day.
But what does it mean to be a dreamer? It is used as a pejorative term but which, if it makes you lots of money, is called, innovation, entrepreneurial, blue sky thinking, being creative, thinking outside the box, success. But, if it isn’t index linked to a successful career, the stock market and profit it’s a put down for what is in simple terms, caring and consideration.
Looking back, it is easy to see that what my being dreamer was all about was caring enormously about life in hard times. It wasn’t just an escape into la la land, it was a way of working things out and what mattered to me. It was an internal exploration of life, the universe and everything and it remains a critical ability in today’s hard times and it is as precious to me now as it was then.
Christmas time is here, and, as I’ve said many times, I don’t ‘do’ Christmas any more, but that does not mean I don’t think about it and this year more than most. So please bear with me while I DO a bit of Christmas.
What has struck me this year is the impossible comparison between the relentlessly dismal world of the Tories and the very real and present hope in people for better and reaching out for that. Across the country people are gearing up for a Christmas in Tory DisMay Land, homeless projects, food banks, helping others caught in the Universal Credit death trap, making sure that children do not go hungry and have at least one small present to open on Christmas Day, in this, the, so called, 6th richest nation in the world and the reality of social exclusion from any share in that wealth. Living in Tory Britain is like living with Scrooge on Crack.
We talk about a light at the end of the tunnel, an expression I’ve used many times, but I think we’re being disingenuous. People are being beacons of light every day, and never more so than at Christmas. The light isn’t some fairy god light which has become occluded by the brutality of the Tories ideologically driven austerity.
I wonder how many people out there are planning to share a meal this Christmas with someone in need, with a lonely pensioner, someone less able than themselves, or even in the many centres that will be open (for homeless people not the least) to people in want of a meal and a little human kindness and consideration? No one will be recording the numbers, data grubbing, extolling their own virtues, they’ll just be getting on with it. And if that isn’t the real and present light, I don’t know what is.
It’s the light of living people, real people, sharing love. I am 66 years old and it’s something I have witnessed every year since I was a small child and in receipt of that loving care myself, with little grasp of the efforts of others it took to share that with us as a struggling family, one amongst many.
The British Legion took us to a pantomime every year. I didn’t know that it was something they did, year after year, for struggling families. They organised and paid for the coaches and the tickets and I recall the huge number of coaches arriving on the day from many different areas, not understanding at all what that meant. I shall never forget the unfamiliar grandness of the theatres, the rows on rows of seats, the hub bub and excitement of what was about to unfold before our eyes on the magical stage and the magical, real, live, actors who got us involved… “Oh no they didn’t!” “Oh yes they did!” And they threw sweets to us as well.
The British Legion also brought round to my Mother a box of second hand presents every year, donated by local people and a hamper of food. I know that my Mother struggled with the shame of it, it was brutally hard for her, who battled every day with poverty. It is only in looking back that I can appreciate the enormity of her heroic struggle, year in year out and the breakdowns she suffered in the struggle to survive and raise us, her loved and cared for children.
She didn’t know that one day her son would become a writer, she didn’t live to see it and nor did I treat her as kindly as I might had I truly grasped the enormity of her struggles in life.
Yet here I am, the product of loving kindness. A product of The Light which is as alive and well today, as it ever was.
It’s not at the end of any tunnel, it is here and present and it’s alive this Christmas.
And we are it.
Keith Ordinary Guy.