Sometimes I’m disgusted by my own consumerism. Yesterday we shopped – mainly for clothes for the children who are growing like weeds at the moment and who needed new clothes. But meanwhile we have BAGS and bags of clothes they’ve grown out of and which I feel like we should be passing on to *someone* but because it’s not easy, or because I forget whenever I’m meeting someone with younger children, or because of the gendering of children’s clothes (WTF, like!), they just pile up in bags and I’m just going to drag them in to be recycled in a generic sense.
At least H&M try to ensure that either the items are re-worn by someone or else the fabric recycled. But I feel like it’s so wasteful.
Meanwhile I just ordered a bunch of clothing online for myself. I don’t need anything! I have enough clothes that fit me – more than really fit in my wardrobe.
If we all had less, maybe there wouldn’t be so much laundry build-up to get through all the time.
While walking through town yesterday, we passed a young homeless girl, bundled in an uncovered duvet, cardboard and plastic bags. It was the middle of the day, but it was cold as all hell. I met her eyes and gave a smile of acknowledgement. That always feels uncomfortable, that never feels like enough, but I try and force myself to do at least that tiny amount because it’s so fucking tempting to blind ourselves to the fact that we have so many homeless, it’s so fucking tempting to just shroud all our perceptions in the trappings of the joyous season, to keep shopping and wasting and over-eating, and screw the less fortunate.
If you’re even a tiny bit perceptive, you’ll notice I didn’t actually do anything.
That’s because I didn’t actually do anything.
I don’t really know what to do. I used to get upset, really upset and worried and stress for days about homelessness and thoughts of what I could do. I for sure don’t think it’s as simple as throwing money at the problem – not the few hundred euro we could personally spare anyway. If we had a spare bed in our house, would it be as simple as inviting someone back so they could have a warm bed and something to eat?
Well, beyond being scared of doing that (and not actually having a spare bed in our house), I’ve got to think that the majority of people who are sleeping rough have reasons surrounding how they got there; families they couldn’t bear to live with anymore, mental health reasons, addiction problems – nothing I’m feeling judgemental about, believe me, but certainly it’s not as simple as just a housing problem.
From a very young age I’ve always felt that homelessness is a path I was only one or two small steps away from. I could see how decisions I’d made in my life could have twisted out of control and taken everything away from me. I also felt so sad to think that a person had so exhausted all ties of family and friendship so that there wasn’t a single person whose couch they could take for a night, or whose table they could share dinner at.
It’s tempting to dismiss the whole thing with “It’s complicated. It’s too complicated for one person to fix!”, to abdicate any type of responsibility at all because of my inability to fix the whole thing. I mean, it doesn’t mean I can do nothing to help, right? Okay, so I could do more. But then I could do more for so many other causes too, couldn’t I? Organising protests, running for charitable causes. campaigning for awareness for them all: homelessness, the environment, the eighth amendment to our constitution, against Trump’s potential visit to our shores, for a solution to Direct Provision, and so on and so forth.
It’s kind of exhausting to even think about it all. It feels like too much guilt to carry, it feels too hard to think about it. Don’t I have enough on my plate just existing? Do I have to be “better” too?
I guess you can see where I’m leading myself to. I guess you can hear the whine in my voice, plaintively convincing myself that it’s okay to not be trying to make the world a better place every day. That it’s okay to stay in my my safe warm bubble of privilege.
I know it’s not okay. But I also don’t really know what’s best – what’s sustainable – for me to do.