Were you there?

As a parent there is nothing worse than watching your child when they are ill, especially when they are very young and unable to comprehend their pain and distress and you are unable to explain what is happening or verbally reassure. The feeling is one of utter powerlessness, you do what you can to physically comfort the child and alleviate the symptoms but it’s horrible to watch them suffer and not be able to help. Many is the time that I’ve asked the Lord whether I might suffer in their place, I think most parents, particularly those of terribly sick children, have. I don’t know a parent who would not commit an act of extreme self-sacrifice if it would relieve the suffering of their child.

I was reflecting upon this earlier when small person was lying pale, red-eyed and listlessly on the sofa, her racking cough vibrating through every fibre in her body and wrenching my heart-strings. I just wanted to take her pain away. I was thinking that there is nothing that I would not do, nothing that I would not be prepared to sacrifice, for the sake of my children.

My mind cast back to an excellent speculative article by Pete Hoskin in the Spectator about what will happen if the US defaults on its debt and I began to wonder whether to stock up on tinned goods and pre-paid money cards. I’m actually being quite serious. I began to think about how awful if would be if I could not manage to feed my children, as if in the unlikely event the US does default, things will swiftly unravel. Steve Hilton’s blue-sky thinking and lack of maternity leave could be the least of our worries. We could be facing the worst economic crisis in history, unless you have a useful manual trade, you’d be out of a job. Lengthy queues for soup kitchens would be commonplace. We’re talking austerity, poverty and hunger on a scale never experienced in recent history in the Western world. It’s terrifying stuff.

As I thought about how I would literally do almost anything to ensure my children did not starve, I looked at my baby who was happily guzzling a breastful of milk and my toddler snuggled next to me, happily occupied with trying to thread a string through some cotton reels. Smooth skin, soft cheeks, plump limbs, shining eyes and beaming smiles. Full bellies and plenty of energy to bat toys or concentrate on developing a new physical milestone, not emaciated protruding rib cages, swollen stomachs and stick-like bones sharply poking out through parchment skin and no energy to lift an arm and swat away the flies. No pitiful wails of hunger, no eyes clouded with pain, the whites turned yellow through malnutrition. I thought about how it must feel to literally have nothing to give your children to eat, have no clean water or sanitation and the tears would not stop. How it must feel to watch your children get sick and die in front of your eyes, to hold them tightly, to look at the expression of fear in their eyes, to desperately rock their painfully light and emaciated frame, but know that there was ultimately absolutely nothing you could do other than pray their death was painless.

The thought is beyond heart-breaking. If it happened to me, I would hope and pray that someone might take pity. I wouldn’t care about whether this was in my country’s best long term economic interests, all I would care about would be feeding my children and keeping them safe.

We bang on about equality, about rights, whilst doing very little to ensure true equality; namely that every single person in the world regardless of creed or colour has enough food to eat, clean water, shelter, basic medical healthcare and an opportunity to provide for themselves. Until that is achieved, then you can take all the other so-called spurious “rights” and stick them where the sun don’t shine. As long as one baby starves to death or suffers from malnutrition, I’m not going to give two hoots as to the percentage of women employed at board level or that Trevor and Justin are being denied their IVF surrogacy funding.

And because all day I’ve been getting myself rather overwrought by the obscenity that I have luxurious items whilst people are literally starving to death there’s going to be quite a few changes to the way we live and some sales on EBay.

One of the things that separates humanity is our ability and capacity for love and compassion. We don’t just let the weakest die and neither should we. If I ever find myself in the situation where my children are literally starving to death, I hope and pray that someone would do absolutely everything in their power to help. “Whatever you do for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do for me”.

To donate £5 to the Save the Children East Africa Appeal, text DONATE to 70555, lines close on 31 July.

To donate £5 to Christian Aid East Africa Appeal, text AFRICA to 70800

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