Yesterday I spent the afternoon at PXI- Parson Cross Initiative, at their food bank (which is so much more than a food bank), drawing pictures with people and listening to their stories as they drew with me, my colleague James also came bringing music, and collecting stories with the idea of putting lament to music. A number of people asked what lament was, and when explained they really got it, for it is okay to complain, to weep and to groan at the injustice of the world, or the personal circumstances that people find themselves in.
Over and over I heard that people were choosing between paying rent and eating, obviously failing to pay rent would lead to eviction, so the food bank has become their life line, to say this is wrong is quite simply not enough. It is wrong that austerity policies are forcing people to be reliant on food banks, it is wrong that people should have to wait for benefits, it is wrong that benefits are cut without warning and for spurious reasons. IT IS WRONG THAT THE POOR AND THE VULNERABLE ARE DEMONISED OVER AND OVER AGAIN! It is wrong….
It is wrong, so why are we as a country allowing this to happen? Why can’t we see through the economic policies that allow the rich to get richer while the poor become poorer, I wonder if we are blind, selfish, or just numb. I think probably a mixture of all of those, and worse still when we don’t see actual people but encounter them only as statistics via- graphs and percentage columns, then we fail to see that this is not about economics it is about people, people who are struggling to get by.
It is about people, people who love their families, people who have joys and sorrows, people who as I heard yesterday have overcome, or are walking through major traumas. Volunteers for whom PXI is a place of refuge and respite as they cope with the terminal illnesses of their loved one, people who suffer domestic abuse ( please note that domestic abuse knows no class distinction), people who have overcome addictions and fought for their families, and won, but still need help in the form of food.
People who feel ashamed to be asking for help, and yet we reflected together over and over how we all need help at times, but to be constantly in that place could become dehumanising. So what makes PXI special, it is the simple fact that people are loved and valued just because, because they don’t see issues, they see the precious created human beings and see them as those who God loves, they both give and receive love.
Drawing pictures and producing music with people may seem useless, but it wasn’t. it allowed us to engage and for people to express themselves and their feelings in a different way, and I hope it will allow those stories to be heard… the cry that says “this is too hard, I am a giver not a taker”, the anger that says “I never expected my fucking life to end up like this…” the grief that connects to the question HOW LONG OH LORD? How long?!!!
In pen and paint I will join my voice to theirs and ask how long? If you would like to buy one of the pictures featuring on this blog post, please get in touch with me, the profits will be shared between PXI and a new food bank opening in my church at Stanwood, also in Sheffield, for while we cry how long the need is getting greater.
For more artwork see my facebook art page