My little daughter has brought home from school a plastic wallet containing a tiny cardboard crib, some pieces of wool and a baby Jesus she has made out of a peg. During the next three and a half weeks, every time she does something kind she is to put a piece of the wool into the crib, and on Christmas morning she will put the peg Christ into his manger, which will hopefully have been made soft and warm by her own kindness. I am so deeply touched by this, and by the excitement with which she holds her little wooden friend, the anticipation for him to have his big moment. I am moved by this simple but beautiful lesson in empathy, in love.
Love, and the lack of it has been on my mind a lot. I spend my time immersed in reading about a world where seems to matter little if at all. Then the papers tell me that Pope Francis has said that ‘trickle down economics’ doesn’t work, and I think gosh, I have never heard that phrase, but surely any five year old could have told you that it was never going to work. But trickle down neglect, trickle down denial of human needs, trickle down bad self-esteem and all that goes with it, that has certainly taken off. Powering the rich into ever more workaholism, greed and denial, driving the poor into all manner of other indignities. And while someone has bravely spoken of the value of love to those children in the greatest poverty, no-one questions the effect that love would have had or could still have on those few who have become decision makers, whose actions grind many more into suffering.
I have been thinking about the work of palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware on the top five regrets of her dying patients, and then I discovered an interview which I found really heart-breaking. I thought I new vaguely where this conversation was going but it shocked me to the core: one of the saddest things I have ever heard.