I am a carer. I wasn’t always a carer, although I have always had a caring nature. I care about people, about the environment, about the world as a whole. I care about justice, equality, fairness and peace. Nowadays, though, I am a different kind of carer. I care full time for my eldest son, Brendan Bjorn. I still care deeply about the other matters, but my energy must primarily be directed toward caring for my son. Strike that. Toward caring for BOTH of my sons.
I sit here, midday on a Tuesday, with my youngest son laying on the couch next to me. On the other side of me is the video monitor keeping a close eye on Brendan Bjorn. You see, they are both sick with high fevers, body aches, and respiratory issues. They came down with this nasty bug yesterday, having picked it up from me. I was very ill all weekend, struggling to do what needed to be done to care for both of my boys as a lone parent…and I am still sick. This weekend, as always, there was no one but me to care for them, and for myself. 39.5 fever be damned, it had to be done. There were a number of people who knew I was very ill, but no one reached out with offers of help, and that leaves me wondering why.
What happened to caring?
Last night, there was a television show on highlighting the shamefully long waiting lists within the health service here in Ireland. The response I’ve seen on Twitter has been one of great public support for those families who are waiting – especially those with children who are suffering while they wait endlessly in pain. The outcry from the public shows genuine caring. The response from the government attempts to show caring. My concern is, there have been numerous reports on these appalling waiting lists and similar public outcry previously, all to no avail. Same story, different day. Will this just be story of the week or will it continue to touch people’s hearts and drive them to actually demand health system reform? My fear is it will soon be replaced with tomorrow’s breaking news.
At that point, I will ask again, what happened to caring?
When I first moved to Ireland, 22 years ago, it was a much different country. The people were different as well. Now before anyone gets too annoyed at me, let me say I have yet to say this very thing to anyone here and had them disagree with me, especially older people. Strangers could sit down at the table with you at a fast food restaurant and it was normal…even provided some good craic. The neighbour lady would leave fresh baked scones and brown bread at my door for me and the boys…that was some fine Cork baking! You didn’t have to ask for help often, because if someone knew you were in need, they would see to it without asking. That was real community. That was caring.
Today, there is an air of indifference, a disconnect from the sense of community that embodied the spirit of Ireland of old. It is slipping away. Apathy is replacing it. People are busy focusing on their own lives to the point of not really being bothered to help those around them. Not always, mind you, but much more so than in years past. I wonder if this is why the government seems to have that same apathy toward issues like waiting lists and children suffering, or do the people have the apathy because the government does? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
I had a fellow carer mam send me a private message asking if she could do anything for me today. It meant the world to me for her to ask! She was the ONLY one to contact me offering that much valued help. And we have never even met! As she lived over 30 minutes away, I instead turned to a neighbour, who happens to also be a carer, but whom I knew would probably be in the village and could pick up the needed items. As she has been before, she was there for me, quick to provide the help.
Is it only carers that understand when another carer is drowning? Is empathy a thing of the past? Does it really take having walked in the same shoes for someone to understand that the person they see before them is in need? I say NO. I refuse to give up hope.
Open your eyes and see those near you. Does the empty bin of the old man next door need brought in from the street? Do it. Would the single mam next door to you enjoy an invite over for a cuppa while her kids are at school? Ask her. Remember what it is like to have that sense of close community.
Don’t let apathy win.
I don’t want to wonder, what happened to caring…