I knew I was pushing it when I took my eldest to the shops this week. It was hot. We’d been at the pool all morning and we were at our local shopping centre one week before Xmas. For some reason, a slip of sanity I suspect, I thought it would be a great idea to take her along with me to grab her a new pair of flip flops. To be fair she was actually quite fabulous, until the last five minutes when she passed some plastic, brightly coloured, troll doll.
“I want that one,” she calmly declared.
“That’s nice honey,” I replied, quickly ushering her towards the check out.
“I want that one now.”
“No, it’s Xmas soon and I’m sure you’ll get a heap of presents.”
“You’ve given us hundreds and hundreds of toys so you can get this one too.”
And with this remark I turned to my daughter and said, in that quiet, yet menacing voice only a parent can do: “There are children who will get no toys this Xmas and you are standing here complaining. Stop sounding like the overindulged child that you are.”
It was a bit harsh, but to be honest I don’t think she was listening. She’d moved on to the Aussie Animal Cards instead. I shouldn’t blame her for wanting things. I’ve helped create that idea of a consumerist society. She expects stuff. I’m slowly trying to teach my girls how damn lucky they are. I have a long way to go. First, I need to work on why I feel the need to give them so much. Maybe because when I was a kid I couldn’t get everything I desired. Now I’m overcompensating.
It’s a simple fact my kids have too much and in a week they’ll have even more things that will fill cupboards and lay under beds.
Last week, Twiggy and I helped deliver donated presents for The Smith Family to families doing it tough. We had a delivery area which is north of Adelaide. Holden heartland. Except I’m pretty sure the people in this neighbourhood will not be impacted too much by the manufacturing giant’s demise because it is a pocket of the community with multigenerational unemployment, substance abuse, crime and sub-standard living conditions. The people living there are not only doing it tough, they will struggle to claw their way out of their desolate streets. There are good people living there, hard working people, family people and those who are doing all they can to set up new ways of life, but on the whole there are many disenfranchised, forgotten people.
I did not grow up with much money. My Mum chose to take the handouts of others, a granny flat to house us for a time being while we waited for our housing trust house. She was lucky to have people who could provide that support, despite wounding her own pride. She was determined for us not to be moved to emergency housing in the suburban wasteland because she knew it would mean a vastly different future for me and us. I can imagine it was one of the hardest periods of her life and I am forever grateful.
I now live a very middle-class life. I barely venture to neighbourhoods outside my comfort zone. I am a self indulgent, spoilt woman. I am judgemental and naive.
Last week, when we turned our black four wheel drive into the forgotten land I will never forget how I felt. I checked the locks on my car door and took deep breaths and I summonsed my courage. Then I told myself to stop being a snobby twat. These streets full of run down commission housing, old broken toys and cars littered in the dirty dead front yards, is the reality for many people. It’s their home. Who was I to judge them? Despite it being lunch time on a weekend there were no people on the streets, except for an elderly pair of junkies meandering along and a couple of people working on a car in the driveway. Everyone’s door was shut to the sun shine. It was such a grey, monochrome existence.
Stepping out at each house with a bag full of presents felt awkward. Giving feels good, but also shallow.
I was so conflicted because I knew I’d get back in my car and drive away. I could do that. I could turn my back and never face their harsh reality ever again. Except I feel a pull there now.
It’s all well and good to talk about rescue packages for multi-national companies. It’s all well and good to discuss ways to retrain specialised workforces and create job opportunities. Pumping money into old ideals of manufacturing which no longer apply to this global world, but what good is that for the suburbs and suburbs of people who our Government has forgotten? What about the families that once a year people like me drop off toys to and feel like their good deed has been done? What happens to them?
My kids will have a wonderful Xmas full of laughter, treats, presents and most importantly love. This is not the reality for the nearly 600,000 Australian kids living below the poverty line. I am doing all I can to teach them how fortunate they are and encourage them to help others.
While we sit on a our lap tops and argue about airbrushing celebrities in magazines and poke fun at Peppa Pig naysayers there are whole sections of our community living in poverty. Where’s the crowd funding for that?