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THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: Remember always to be kind


ANTOINETTE CONNELL, [email protected]

THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: Remember always to be kind

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NO MATTER HOW many times I tell B that he is not getting any money from me – for fear that it will go towards the buying of drugs – he remains undaunted.

He’ll appear at the roadside just as I’m leaving home soliciting some small amount from me. Or he’ll shout to me asking with pleading eyes for money to get something to eat.

“B,” I’ll say, “you know that I don’t give you money.”

He’ll persist and I’ll persist. It is a fight to the bittersweet end because he will end up leaving with something, just not money.

So yesterday when B shouted for me in his usual fashion with his anticipated request and I whirled around to give him my stock reply, he was grinning.

“I know, I know,” he said laughing.

That caused my scowl to disappear, and though I didn’t want to, I smiled at his obvious attempt to carry on our roadside banter for the sake of tradition.

B is one of the many characters who roam my neighbourhood now just seeking the bare necessities for survival, a morsel and a place to rest overnight. Not much thought is put into their general appearance and instantly that becomes a turn-off to anyone whom they approach.

So that when they sit outside a bank or supermarket soliciting money from workers, it is little wonder that the reception is cold and the remarks sometimes cruel. There are some who will respond with kindness to the circumstances that people like my friend B and others find themselves in.

B came to mind after listening to my pastor Reverend Vincent Wood speak on Sunday about the treatment that poor people received from the agencies that are required to look out for them. It is not the first time that people have spoken out about the condescending way in which the social service agencies respond to the poor.

Comfortable

Pastor Wood believes that we have forgotten what it was like to be poor. Have we? Or are we so comfortable with our current status that we choose to pretend that those conditions never existed?

Deep down inside we look at these people with the sentiment “but for the grace of God there goes I”, realising our own good blessings in the midst of a world of uncertainty and tragedy. And if we don’t, we should exercise this empathetic compassion.

History attributes the quote to a deeply religious preacher John Bradford living in the 1500s, who, upon seeing someone on their way to execution, made the remark. Left to our own divisive nature we are likely to end up in regrettable positions but instead many of us are thankful for that greater force at work in our lives.

Pastor Wood was particularly peeved that the social service employees treated the desperate men and women in a way that suggested they were less than human. They saw someone in need and rather than reaching out with kindness they responded with cold-heartedness.

It may be okay to be firm with people in need sometimes. I have been, but there are genuine cases where they can certainly do no better. It should bring no one any joy to add to their misery by dealing with them in such a disdainful way.

How do you, day after day, month after month roughly treat people in such a manner? And how do you as a head of a department allow workers to behave in that way?

Fortunes can change in a day. A fire, an accident or some other misfortune can plunge a once prosperous life into despair and it can happen to any of us.

Perhaps whenever we are tempted to heap scorn upon someone in need we should utter Bradford’s observation. This might change our initial reaction, mine included.

Antoinette Connell is a News Editor.
Email [email protected]

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