Gosh, it was shocking.
We talk about how "the other half" live, but society can't be delineated as easily as that. "The other half" are usually richer than us, when we use that expression, but we aren't really poor. Not compared to those children, and the millions like them, IN BRITAIN TODAY. That is what got me. I understand poor children in Africa, or in Asia, for example, who have no food because the harvest has failed or there has been a drought, or a civil war; I have seen the pictures of people desperate for the sacks of provisions being flung out of the planes, I know about them living hand to mouth, one meal a day, walking miles to get water. I understand that kind of poverty.
These children were living in Leicester, Bradford and Glasgow. Leicester is less than 100 miles from here, and I know Glasgow only a little, from what I saw on the hospital trips when the FH was in the Royal Infirmary. I know the Gorbals by reputation.
There is a child on the programme who is sitting on her bed, eating some kind of large sausage roll, and that is her tea. She explains that quite often she doesn't get any dinner unless she is at school where there is a free school meal for her. Breakfast? She says she often "forgets" to make herself some toast, or she runs out of time. And the housing. The Gorbals area of Glasgow is a tenement maze, where hundreds of thousands of people must live in a very small area, piled up in blocks. There were rooms where the whole ceilings are covered in mould, the mattresses on which the children were sleeping were mouldy, and they had asthma and other health issues. Another child and her siblings, one very young, were playing outside, and running from one boarded-up house to another, trying to gain entry so that they had somewhere to play. She explained quite sadly that if she went home, it was quite boring, as all there was to do was watch the television - she said that other people had colouring and toys and puzzles, but they just have the tv.
I really counted my blessings last night. Really.
I may not have the money that would allow us foreign holidays, posh cars and fancy clothes, but we have got it made compared with those children. We are rich by comparison, and our children have a life those "poor kids" would love, and they would be grateful because they have known life without. I didn't see that part, but apparently a child at the end said that she didn't want to grow up - perhaps because she had seen what living like that had done to her mother.
How did it make me feel? Well, I vowed to double my annual donation to the Salvation Army because I know that the SA supports people like those, especially children. I also thought about supporting more home charities. It also made me start to think about the kinds of places I want to work if I ever make it into the ministry. One think it did for sure, though, was to really open my eyes to true poverty in this country.