Friday, 22 October 2010

Odd Shoes for Austerity

My reflections with Roy Noble on BBC Radio Wales this week began with the very true story of my trip up North the other week. I had to go to Newcastle for a meeting It meant catching a flight from Bristol at seven in the morning. Of course that meant being there by six, which involved leaving Cardiff by 5 so the alarm was set for half past four. Being considerate I got dressed in the spare room so as not to wake my wife, but I had forgotten to leave out some shoes. So I crept back into our room and under the cover of darkness slipped on my trainers and made my way down stairs.

Ninety minutes later I was in the queue at Bristol Airport. Security was tight. Laptops out of the bag, belts removed from trousers and shoes off, if you please. And that’s when I realised my mistake: in the darkness I had managed to put on two very different shoes.

Suddenly I felt sure that everyone was laughing at the fool with the odd footwear. I tried to hide my feet beneath my bag but even though my mistake seemed glaringly obvious to me no-one said anything … not even the security guard who then asked me to remove both trainers. On the way back people were too preoccupied with talking into their mobiles to notice what was wrong with me or no-one thought it was their place to mention it.

That’s an amusing story for the pub but of course it’s trivial when compared with all that goes wrong in the world, particularly the economic cuts that have been announced this week. But my escapade reminded me that as austerity begins to really bite there will be much that may go seriously wrong in the lives of those around us. And whatever the politics involved in all this, the harsh reality will be that jobs will go, bills will lie unpaid, homes may go without heat and tables will be empty of food.

And the temptation for many will be to say or do nothing. Some of us who really need the help will be too embarrassed to say anything about what has gone so wrong. We may try to cover it up even though it may be through little fault of our own. And people who are better off may be too busy with their lives to see what has gone wrong for others, or feel it’s not their place to do anything about it.

The world’s religions have always argued that we should care for the weak and the vulnerable in our midst. The Psalms speak of God as father of the fatherless, defender of the widows. Jesus spoke of bringing good news to the poor. On a day that announces so many economic difficulties we should remember that the quality of our lives in these times of austerity will be measured not by how we survive but on how we care for one another.

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