Friday, July 31, 2009

Andrei A tale of two little girls

There are times when those who hold political opinions to the left of us accuse those who hold opinions similar to ours of being selfish and uncaring.

Sometimes I suspect they maybe right. This comment on Kiwi blog pushed a button in me and I responded. The original commenter was polite enough but some of the other comments are beyond reprehensible, vile racist trash.

Anyway a true story for what its worth

When we got married my wife and I bought a modest house in a modest street in a modest neighbourhood to start our family. A quiet suburban street with starter outers and a few older families of more modest means.

When our eldest was about three Housing Corporation in its wisdom decided to buy houses in modest neighbourhoods such as ours to try and eliminate the state housing ghettos and integrate the inhabitants of such into lower middle class neighbourhoods.

And a family of sorts moved in across the road. The husband was an alcoholic -rarely seen by us and never seen sober, his wife was a harried woman who worked nights as a cleaner, their seventeen year old daughter and her three year old child. Miss seventeen was rarely at home, she was off doing her thing leaving her daughter with her tired and worn mother.

One Saturday not long after they arrived Grandma was out mowing the lawn with an old push mower, goodness only knows where her useless husband and daughter were but the child started to scream and scream and scream.

My wife went over and suggested the child come and play with our daughters, Grandma was hesitant and unsure but brought her over anyway.

And this child trembled, she has apparently never played with other children before. This child was non verbal - my daughter who was almost exactly the same age was starting to read, her younger sister was and still is a chatterer but this child couldn't speak at all because as her Grandma explained nobody ever spoke to her. And this poor child was standing there staring at my girls and quivering all over.

Grandma you must understand had been working all night in her cleaning job and was now trying to keep house and home together. Doing the washing and mowing the lawns and tending to this poor child but not at all well.

I tell you it broke my heart to see this. But what can you do? My wife suggested that this little girl be enrolled in Kindergaten but nothing ever came of it and she never was.

Anyway we sold our house soon after and moved on to greener pastures in a nice rural setting.
Housing Corp bought more houses in our old street - not ours though. And last time I went down there that street had become just as commenter on Kiwiblog described. Dead cars and unmowed lawns.

We were lucky to sell when we did - no? And someone else got unlucky to buy when they did I suppose.

And the little girl from across the road, I happen to know, OD'ed four years or so ago and quite probably did it on purpose.

Meanwhile my little girl who is really a woman now will graduate with a nursing degree later on this year.

Thems the breaks.

13 comment(s):

Lucia Maria said...

That's really sad.

But, I don't get how the child could have been so neglected, unless all the adults in her life made it be known to her that she wasn't to bother them. It would have to be consistent for her to get to such a state.

Lucia Maria said...

I just read the comment you linked to. It really bugged me as well.

Andrei said...

You lucia;
that child's mother was 17 when this happened which means that she was 14 when she gave birth.

Imagine that, that would be a huge ask for a 14 year old in a supportive environment and utterly hopeless in a disfunctional one.

The Grandmother was trying hard - she really was but she had no resources to work with. God alone knows when she slept even.

Sean said...

Interesting post Andrei. But back to your response on Kiwiblog I have to say I disagree. Poverty is not squalor. As I understand the word, squalor means filthy, or to live in filth. This is not the same as bing poor.

Now for you examples. A petrol mower takes about 2-3 litres and this will keep you going for an hour at least. Depending on the size of the lawn that could be almost a month's worth of mowing, even in summer. Or even if just a fortnight's worth it is costing less than $5 in petrol. So quite frankly that excuse for not doing the lawns just doesn't cut it.

As for a bad diet meaning less energy, then get a good diet. Being poor may restrict your choices for food options, but it barely restricts you from having a healthy diet.

Furthermore real poverty doesn't exist in NZ. Relatively it does, but relatively it exists in Switzerland as well. NZ's "poor" live like kings compared to the real poverty that exists as close as our neighbours in the Pacific and SE Asia.

The alcoholic has a choice. The less well off in NZ do have choices. For those living in squalor, I see no reason for them not to get up off the couch and go spin some blades or squeeze the Spray 'n' Wipe bottle on a weekend afternoon.

A bit of hard work never hurt anyone.

PS Of course Brian's original comment did not say that all poor people live in squalor. Of course that would be an absurd comment to make. He said "Why do many poor people seem to like living in squalor.". Therefore I am not having a go at the poor, only those that live and squalor and then make silly excuses.

Sean said...

I guess adding to my above comment, and taking into the account your story in your post (about the youg girl across the street) I read this article in the Herald just now:
Kids lack basics on first dayat school

and noticed this comment:

Ms Vivien and Ms Procter both said the problem was not the result of poverty or families who spoke English only as a second language.

I would say being poor certainly doesn't help but there are still plenty of options. You don't need money to love and care and nuture a young child. You don't need money to teach them. Making excuses never works, providing disincetives sometimes works, providing incentives often works. There will never be the perfect answer though because we are human.

"I think that God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability." - Oscar Wilde

ZenTiger said...

Sean, regarding Wilde: if it was all easy and perfect, there would be no need for the training. Yet the training makes us understand and appreciate the value.

While I agree with your points, I also agree with Andrei's. There are options which may not have been taken, and that surely is because of a poverty of spirit?

I'm not sure why and how it gets beaten out of some, and yet others find it in the same circumstances, but the broken family (absent father) compounded with an alcoholic granddad has to be a big part of the reason.

Anonymous said...

I admit that the original post also made me do a second take, just to make sure I'd actually seen what I thought I had.

And further down, Colonel Masters bemoans the fact that beneficiaries use clothes dryers to dry their clothes, while hardworking men use the washing line. That made me laugh for quite a while. I can only imagine the outrage when he finds that an unemployed man somewhere has a mussed up sock drawer!

Oh lord, where to begin. Probably best not to start. I put kiwiblog on restricted site status on my PC a few weeks ago, so I can't comment there anymore. Best way to keep my blood pressure down. Though I still hoped Andrei would blog about it here yesterday and rushed straight over to look, LOL.

I agree with some of what Andrei says in this posts, but one in particular he goes way off my take on life - and isn't that really the disputed issue?

The further back from the argument you step, the greater the context applied to the idea, the clearer the answer gets.

Or perhaps that should be, the lack of an answer becomes clear.

Those that can't tolerate the fact it can't be solved jump back into the intellectual details and those that have learned to accept it just let it go. The result is the same.

I don't condemn Brian for asking the question either. About ten years ago, as I looked out the window of a train as it ran down the Hutt Valley line, at the back of the council houses, I wondered the same thing. I saw the resources lying in the bare backyards of those HNZ flats that just looked like rubbish to another man. Much later I learned my error.
I was looking through my eyes, measuring with my values, my skills, my motivations, interests and hopes for the future. They were not the same as the people who lived there and unless I was prepared to live their lives for them the exercise was completely pointless.

Andrei said...

Courtier: Madam the peasants are starving, they have no bread.

Marie Antoinette: Then let them eat cake

Sean poverty is relative, obviously,
but poverty of spirit is not and this is what we are talking about really.

Anyway look at some assumptions you are making when using the cost of petrol for the lawn mower a mere $5 in your eyes

(1) The person has a functional lawn mower to start with.

(2) They have easy access to a service station to buy petrol.

The closest service station to my house is well over 5ks from here.

For the likes of you and me, we just hop in the car without a second thought and pop down the road to get it. But what if you have no car?

You have to try and walk in the other man's shoes sometime. What seems a molehill to you might be an insurmountable mountain to someone else - no?

You know $5 seems a trivial amount of money but add up the $5 you spend here and the $10 you spend there each week - you know a coffee a Starbucks, petrol for the mower, car magazines - whatever. And you will probably find that it comes to more money than some people have to live on each week.

Lucia Maria said...


Yes, it did bother me, but for a different reason that what seems to have inspired your post.

While some people will spend the time keeping external appearances going (ie mowing the lawn), others will choose not to do so and do what is really important as their lives fall apart around them. Having had family in this situation, where the lawn wasn't mowed, but Dad was dying of cancer, Mum was getting very little sleep because of an autistic son and later another son had a nervous breakdown after the death of his Dad, somehow the lawns didn't get mowed. But anyway, that was in the past.

And Marie Antoinette never said that.

Andrei said...

And Marie Antoinette never said that.

I know its a cruel slander but it makes the point.

And Lucia your story also illustrates what I am getting at, I think.

Now people might have looked at your disheveled property and snootly cast you all off as deadbeats - oblivious to the real challenges facing your family at that time let alone thinking of doing something that might have helped.

Maybe it bugged you for the same reason it bugged me - after all

Sean said...

Andrei - re:
(1) That is an scenario you gave and I stuck to it. If they don't have a motor mower there are other options. I am sure you can pick one up at a garage sale for next to nohting.

(2) Aside from the fact that most of our less well-off live in urban areas and have a petrol station within walking distance, have you ever heard of a bicycle? Another of those things you can pick up pretty cheap at a garage sale.

I´ll tell you what the 'other man' has than no-one can take away from him: - a brain. If he uses it he will be just fine. Seems you prefer to join the socialists and keep making silly excuses.

"You know $5 seems a trivial amount of money but add up the $5 you spend here and the $10 you spend there each week - you know a coffee a Starbucks, petrol for the mower, car magazines - whatever."
- are you serious? It's called a home budget, and one that shouldn't include coffee at Starbucks and car magazines if you are financially hard up. I can't believe I´m actually having to spell this out for you. Please tell me you are deliberately winding me up!

MK said...

I don't know what it is, but for some people it's like they got loose wiring or something. They just don't see the world the way we do.

XXX said...

When people are stuck, they need help, they can't just snap out of it. But you can't help these people by simply throwing money at them.

They need an environment that appreciate and build them up. Give them a place in society. Sometime people just want to be valued and feel like they have a place they can call home.

It takes a group of very dedicated people with passion for humanity to help these people. It takes big hearts and people who are willing to sacrifice for others.

The world needs real love, something that we seem to run out of ...

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