Today we got rid of some shelves and a rug.
All our furniture has been ‘booked for buying’ by national friends and, little by little, people are coming to our house and taking the goods. I’m enjoying the space that’s made available but hating the feeling of emotional ’emptiness’ which comes with it. We’re beginning to echo in some of the rooms now.
Not everything is being sold though. These items we took round to a friend and colleague of Wifey’s. She is a tailor and this shot below is of her entire house. It is one very small room with a straw roof, a bed, one table and a handful of smaller items.
This young lady has no legs from the knees down after an accident several years ago. With no husband, her family threw her out recently after months of treating her like a slave and not allowing her food. She earns a pittance as a tailor. Her story is a typical one in Bangladesh.
When we leave, the support we give to various people – paying school fees or other educational costs for instance – will continue. While we need money raised from selling furniture to make sure our Bangladesh account is topped up in readiness for this, we are also giving away a lot of stuff to people like this girl who simply cannot afford luxuries like shelves. With so many friends here who are as poor or nearly so as her, it is difficult to know how to tread the fine line between dignity and condescension. These are people with great pride who no more want ‘charity handouts’ than anyone I know from the UK would want. Yet, they are also poverty-stricken and have needs we can meet. What to do?
The difference – I hope, though I’m sure we’ve made endless mistakes with this – is friendship. We don’t give where we think someone is needy; heavens, we’d have nothing left if we did! We give to friends in the name of friendship in ways we think and hope will be a blessing to them from one equal to another. I’d do nothing different for my friends in the rich West the context would be nothing like the same.
Ironically, as I write, we have no home to go to, wifey has no job and I’m still building up clients to write for and finishing books to publish. Effectively, when we return to the UK we become the poor people needing the help from our friends and family. Please don’t interpret this to mean I see us as poor as our friend here – that would be ridiculous – but simply that though our young friend here will never know it, nor believe it, I can empathize with her situation. The difference, of course, is that our poverty should be temporary and cushioned in one of the richest countries in the world. Hers will almost certainly last her lifetime in a country filled with people in a similar position.
Apologies the pictures are pretty awful today. Clearly the camera is objecting to leaving too and is grumpy.
- 30 Final Days of Bangladesh – Day 0 (kenthinksaloud.wordpress.com)
- Bangladesh: A way up, “with dignity” – comment on a Dhaka Tribune Editorial (kenthinksaloud.wordpress.com)
- Reflections on the Hardest Things about Moving Home from Bangladesh (kenthinksaloud.wordpress.com)