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The True Joy in Life

11 July 2024

I have a quotation next to my desk. It’s taken from the Irish writer George Bernard Shaw and it’s about his view on ‘The true joy in life’. Shaw reflects on the harder he works, the more he lives and the more he rejoices in life and not being a ‘feverish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making [him] happy.

Some people love being busy, they thrive on busyness, thinking up ideas, planning, doing, sitting still doesn’t come easy. In the middle of the night last week, COVID decided to pay me a visit and to enforce some non-discretionary rest. At those times, your body is being given a gift, the opportunity to be a couch potato despite the resistance to rest that pushes back against the frustrations of our own sense of importance.

For a while I became Shaw’s ‘Feverish clod of ailments and grievances’. The timing was less than ideal, multiple family health issues to isolate from and a birthday spent in the company of the cat and dogs. But, put a little perspective across my situation, many people are forced to sleep rough when they are unwell. When it was 2.4 degrees centigrade, I had a warm bed, a fire to fall asleep in front of, and access to medication. Many of the people experiencing homelessness don’t. At St Bart’s we have just finished our Winter Appeal and hosted the second Homelessness Memorial Day (21 June), both of which reflect on the harsh conditions faced on the streets. We are incredibly grateful to all those who have supported us financially and  have bought into the messages we reinforce about the realities of homelessness.

Earlier this week, we heard some long-awaited good news. One of our Future Homes residents has secured long-term, stable accommodation in the community. He’s lived at St Bart’s for quite some time and the prospect of this new home has been on the horizon for what feels like an eternity. He’s one of those characters that you tend to hear before you see, his volume and profanity control are often switched off. I always enjoy an impromptu conversation with him, he’s brutally honest about himself and everyone and everything in his universe. He has a back story ingrained with trauma and the resultant PTSD. He knows what he wants, and what he doesn’t want, from life and despite all the things that he’s been subjected to in the past that have influenced his present, he has positive aspirations for his future. He wants to be ‘A force of nature rather than  the feverish, selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making [him] happy.’ From what I’ve read of the life of George Bernard Shaw, the two of them would have had some very lively and interesting conversations together.

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