Do you ever feel like giving up?
Almost every day.
I see the pain, the mess, the absolute brokenness that exists in our world, and I can’t help but wonder at why we are still doing this.
Why fight for a world that doesn’t want to change?
This week I heard some heart-breaking news about a young man I knew.
He’d battled depression for many years, and sadly, about a month ago he lost that fight.
I ache for him.
I ache for his family.
I ache for a world that could have stopped this from happening, but didn’t.
So much of the pain and suffering that exists in this world is of our own making.
We are the ones who created the systems and structures which govern our existence.
We are the ones who built communities in the image of individualism, communities that breed disconnection and exacerbate mental illness.
We did this.
And if we can make the world this way, then we can unmake it.
Or at least, that’s what I want to believe.
Yet, even as I write these words I struggle to hold onto that belief for myself.
I’ve reflected this week on the time that I had with that young man, each encounter is crystal clear, like stepping back through a portal in time.
I remember the first time I met him, almost bent double under the weight of depression. I remember his courage as he opened up and shared with me his struggles and allowed me to join him on his journey.
And I remember the first time he smiled.
A moment where the darkness lifted, and for that moment he was just a kid delighted by antics of his friends.
I remember him.
As a Youth Worker my hope has always been that in the brief moments I have with these young people, that somehow, in some way, our interaction could be enough to change something. That maybe, just maybe, I could impart some hope or life into their world, that they would receive some measure of healing that would change the course of their future.
Yet, I felt that hope crumble inside me when I received the news of this young man’s death.
And as I grieve for him, I also grieve for all the rest.
For the ones we’ve lost, for those I know we will lose, their names and faces come to me unbidden, young people I’ve presumed to hope for, presumed to believe could be set free.
And once again I wonder.
Are we making a difference?
Are we changing anything for anyone?
Or are we just providing a band aid for a gaping wound?
Because, sometimes that’s what it feels like.
Like no matter what we do, the world we have created for these rangatahi is still designed to oppress them.
If we want to make any real difference, then something must change.
It is not enough to blame the Government, or complain about lack of funding, change will only come when we care enough to change ourselves.
We blamed National for being “heartless” or “uncaring”, for pandering to the rich, and not caring enough for the vulnerable and the marginalized.
Yet, now Labour is in Government, and what’s our excuse?
Meaningful change is not going to come from within the Beehive.
To make any real meaningful difference we need to over haul the way we live life.
Our communities need to change, our social services and NGO’s need to change, we the people, need to change.
I am tired of being patted on the head and told “you’re doing such good work, we couldn’t do that”, from people who then continue to live their lives like people aren’t suffering in our midst.
It is not the sole responsibility of Youth Workers, Social Workers, NGO’s or even the Government, to care for our most vulnerable and marginalized.
That responsibility lies with all of us.
I hate that my job exists.
I don’t want it to continue.
I want to become irrelevant.
But, until we all care enough to do something, nothing will change.
Nothing can change.
Because, change will cost you something. Change means you might need to pay more in tax. Change means you might need to open your home or your life to those in need. Change means that you will have to get your hands dirty.
There is no change without sacrifice.
We will not end homelessness, address inequality, or deal with child poverty, until middle New Zealand are prepared for the sacrifice that comes with change.
It can’t happen.
It’s a lie to think change for our most vulnerable can happen without you.
We all have a part to play.
And until enough of us are ready to step up, there isn’t a chance in Hell that it will happen.
We have blamed the Government for our own apathy for too long.
The Government represents the people.
They will reflect the values of the majority.
We change ourselves, and they will follow.
Become the change your community needs, be the person who cares enough to make a difference in someone else’s life.
Wellington’s not going to do it for us.
If we want things to change, it has to start with us.