How to Cross the Road (T)
Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Eighteen months or so into the pandemic, I’ve come to pay more attention to the air I breathe, to the roof over my head, and of course, to the almighty toilet paper. I look after myself as well as the people around me. On good days, I can even include people I don’t know. And I’ve noticed it isn’t just me.
Over the UK bank holiday weekend, my daughter and I took a self-guided history tour in Rotherhithe, Southeast London. At the beginning of our journey we saw two lads flank an elderly man just outside the overground station. Alarmed at first, we saw a moment later that they were actually helping him cross the road. A driver at the stoplight honked impatiently and one of the lads was feverishly selling something on his phone. But that didn’t take away from how the lads, now men in my eyes, took the time through three signal turns to complete the crossing.
Maybe goodness had been here all the time but I didn’t pay attention. I’d been to cafés in Bermondsey before but never noticed The Mayflower Pub where the ship to the New World once docked and certainly not the bronze statue of social worker and first UK woman mayor Ada Salter who provided free healthcare to the residents of 20th Century Bermondsey. Together with her husband, Dr. Alfred Mayor, the couple allegedly provided the roadmap for UK healthcare policy, bettering living conditions of the poverty-stricken neighborhood of the time.
Later that evening, I looked up the shocking statistic that even today, a third of the children born in the UK still live with an adult who makes less than 60% of the average national income. Footballer and activist Marcus Rashford who personally experienced child poverty teamed up with Fairshare during the March 2020 lockdown, promising to deliver meals to children who were no longer receiving free school meals over the summer holidays. Overturning earlier government refusals, Marcus Rashford, MBE, pushed hard and ultimately raised £1.3 million, succeeding in providing 3 million free meals across the country.
September 5th is the UN International Day of Charity and this year’s theme is to eradicate poverty. I’m usually a first-in line-cynic that says I’m not an Ada Salter or a Marcus Rashford with celebrity status to push government policies for social change. But I must be softening up in old age because I can now see ways to involve myself, and that’s on both the giving or receiving end of the kindness chain. For as I heard a Buddhist monk recently explain about the monks who receive food from villagers, receiving kindness offers an opportunity to the givers, which in itself is a kind of kindness. By participating in the walk across the street, the elderly Rotherhithe man gave the young men the chance to give – kindness looks both ways.