It is very cold outside, a howling wind, some sun but some heavy clouds which I recognise as possible snow clouds. Winter is on the way. The trees are almost bare now and there is a carpet of leaves on the ground making it golden in the sunshine. For me this is the time I start to stay inside as it is too cold for me out there. But I spend my time reflecting and writing mainly as well as knitting thick scarves for when I do go out.
But what I want to write about today is something different. As some of you will know I am an avid researcher and recently have been researching the local workhouse which was closed in the 1930s. Although this is nothing to do with druidry, it is to do with our approach to our lives, our compassion for others and our wish to make the world a better place.
During this research, I have read some terrible stories of hardship and cruelty especially towards the poor and the mentally ill who were soon put away in the workhouse or lunatic asylums. Some stories struck a chord within me. In 1912 there was a miners strike. Some miners belonged to a union so were unable to ask for poor relief to help them survive. Other miners did not belong to the union but could not work because of the others. However the Board of Guardians who were in charge of poor relief as well as the workhouse decided that those miners who did not belong to a union, sympathised with those who did, so were not eligible for help.
Food in the workhouse was set by the main Poor Law Board and was just enough to keep you alive. Later there were dietary changes so on Sundays you got meat and potatoes for lunch instead of rice and treacle. You had to wear what can only be called a uniform and you all went to church on Sunday in that uniform so everyone could see that you were poor and in the workhouse. What does this remind you of?
I found a case in 1915 where two young children born in Germany of a German father and an English mother. The mother had returned to England with the children who were born in Germany but she had died and the two children went into the workhouse. The Guardians thought that it should be possible to deport the young children back to Germany. 1915 was the time of the first world war and Germany was not the place to send young children. Did they have no compassion? All they thought about was the cost of providing for these young children.
As for those who were ‘mentally defective’, the words used by those in charge, they were sorted into different types or classes and kept to their own class. Many were sent to what became known as colonies where they lived separate from the normal world.
Has our world changed? I look at what is going on around me and think that we are going backwards not forwards. What do you think?
There has only been one thing heading the news this week, the refugee crisis in Europe. I shall probably get some flak for this blog. I have already had some on my Facebook page regarding links I have put there. We talk about refugees and economic migrants so think about this. Do you or do you know someone who has moved house to get their child in a better school or moved to a different town to get a better job? Have you lived or do you know someone who has lived in a war zone?
I remember the war and the bombs and the devastation caused. I remember people having to move to find new homes. I also remember when I was at school and one day several Ugandans joined us. There have always been refugees and they are all over the world not just coming to Europe.
As a druid I have compassion for these people. I have not walked a mile in their shoes but the media photos give me some idea of the conditions some of them lived in. But I have been on the verge of being homeless several times in my life, once when my children were quite small so I know how that feels. I know about the feelings of insecurity, the feelings of where do I go next and so on.
People who are running away from their ruined homes need help, support and compassion. Do we put keeping our material assets against being human and helping others? It was good to see the welcome given yesterday to those entering Germany. tI was better than that given in other countries where potential immigrants from Indonesia and surrounding islands are cooped up in a prison like environment on an island away from the mainland.
These are people we are talking about, human beings just like us but in dire straits and needing help. What are you doing about it? It is a long and winding road travelled by us all not just the refugees.
Earlier this week I posted a question on Facebook. What has happened to compassion? But what is compassion? The free dictionary describes it as ‘Deep awareness of the suffering of another accompanied by the wish to relieve it.’
There are so many disasters in our current world and I wonder if that is why people have lost their compassion for others. Have we become immune to what is going on around us? I am not just thinking of earthquakes and mass drownings of refugees trying to escape death but also thinking about what is happening in our cities and towns. Have those of us with enough or more than enough forgotten how to share with those who don’t have enough? I am not rich moneywise but I try to help others in some way especially those in need. Items I no longer need can be given to someone who can use them including those tins of food in the cupboard. I feel it is right to share and help those less fortunate. If they are begging on the street, there is a reason why this is happening? We need to look at the reasons behind poverty if we are going to do something about it. We cannot stop earthquakes but we can have compassion for those caught up in them and help in whatever way we can even though we are thousands of miles away. We can try to find solutions for countries that are in turmoil but while this is going on we can have compassion for those caught up in the turmoil.
Do you have compassion? If so, let your compassion grow like the plants in the garden.
The shortest day brings the return of the light. Now is the time to look forward and to move forward too. It is time to look at what being a druid really means. For me being a druid is not just about connecting to the natural world but is also about the connection between us all. Every one in the world has that divine spark within them even if they do not know it or acknowledge it. Whatever faith or colour, we are connected even if we disagree about the ways of the world.
Others may not think the same way as I do, they may not agree with what I do, they may hate me for what I am and do. But hating them back is not a good way to go. Gandhi said that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Hating others because they think differently, breeds more hate.
Ancients druids were peacemakers. They had love,understanding, tolerance, compassion, respect and knowledge. These are qualities that I hope I am achieving. It is not easy to stand back some times and avoid the conflict but that is my aim. Getting angry is no good either as that makes more anger and anger is no good for any one.
History is repeating itself again, that is the turmoil in our world. Some are provoking others with their actions. The media are good at this, saying and writing things deliberately to provoke others into anger and hate. If you are strong in your beliefs of fairness, tolerance, respect, compassion and love, then you can withstand these attacks.
May this solstice bring you peace, love, understanding, respect for others, tolerance, compassion and knowledge.