Picture from http://www.flickr.com/photos/cookylamoo/432969435/
Bear with me – this may ramble…
In the car this morning I caught Archbishop of York John Sentamu talking about using the credit crunch to retake some of the basic meaning behind Christmas. In amongst this was the idea of appreciating the value of the truly important things – which are not necessarily material gifts.
And it got me thinking. I was on my way to Fort Kinnaird to buy Christmas presents for a family of dear friends. But although I love them very much, I don’t find them easy to buy for. They enjoy a far more affluent life than the Soup household. It is always hard to balance our tight budget against finding items that fit (even if they don’t match) with their style and interests. I am sure they are careful to judge what they buy for us, not wishing to overwhelm us with gifts that cannot be reciprocated. But welcome as those gifts are, my lasting gratitude will go to them instead for many acts of kindness over the years, which cost little or nothing, but which I will remember for the rest of my life. For instance this summer they gave time and expertise to support me in making some important choices. No money spent, but crucially useful. So the presents, I reminded myself, really are only tokens. Make them good ones, if you can, but don’t fret about them…
And while at Fort Kinnaird, we went into Borders and I picked up a kids’ book called Teach Your Granny to Text. I gave it just a quick flick. It seemed to be a 101 things to do… book with an ecological twist. The page I read was entitled ‘Love Your Stuff‘ about appreciating even your old and tatty things.
I put the book down, but found myself coming back to the idea of ‘Love Your Stuff’ throughout the day. It fitted with my general philosophies about the world. I know I’m a follower of the make do and mend ethos, and I’ve been a little amused to find that so much of the credit crunch advice being bandied about reflects the way we’ve been living for a long time (the downside of this is that it’s harder to find further ways to economise…) But, financial – and ecological - implications aside, I feel there’s a value to loving your stuff as part of a positive mindset.
Then in the afternoon, I took one of the Littlest Soups out for a walk, and we came past a place where we have previously found abandoned toys – discarded, I think, by the children in nearby group of houses. We’ve tried returning them to likely homes, without success. We’ve tried propping them up prominently to be reclaimed, only to see them moulder week after week. This time we spotted a naked, cloth-bodied baby doll, not dropped but hurled to the edge of some undergrowth. She wasn’t there the day before but, from the muck and the mildew, she’d been outdoors for some time.
There’s something tragic about an abandoned doll at any time, but when I picked her up I was struck by her resemblance to the computer-generated images of neglected injuries which have dominated the news in recent days. She summed up for me the antithesis of the ‘Love your Stuff’ ethos. Of all toys, a baby doll is designed to foster affectionate nurturing.
I remember the Council making a deal, some time ago about the provision of houses like the ones from where these toys may have come. They spoke forcefully about the need to supply ‘affordable housing’ for people who don’t have much money to spend. But is our society doing anything to support people in making the most of the things they buy with what little money they can spend?
Well, I’ve spent a little bit of money – I’ve checked out the website of that book’s authors and I’ve ordered a copy of ‘Teach Your Granny…’. As a family we’re going to think anew about making the most of things.
And the doll? I couldn’t just leave her there. She’s been bleached, washed, scrubbed and will be receiving fresh stuffing, a name and a new home somewhere. She’s as good as new.