We are told, ‘before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes’. I wonder if we can understand another person’s experiences, challenges, and thought processes. The pandemic has forced us closer to our neighbours and community with the strict government-imposed restrictions on our movement and often taken for granted freedom. Stories of enormous financial loss and women subject to increased hardship and domestic violence appear in the media daily. News broadcasts show us queues of unemployed people waiting in the streets for support, be that for basic necessities such as food or unemployment benefits.
How many of us fortunate enough to own our own homes, still making an income, and are largely unaffected can really empathise with this demographic. Until you find yourself destitute I’d suggest it would be near impossible to understand the challenges that come with this situation.
It’s not only the lower socio-economic member of our society that are doing it tough. Those with enormous debt are also feeling the pinch. Unable to repay his mortgage Andrew lay sleepless, his mind racing while his wife of 27 years lay next to him unaware of the severity of the situation. With all four boys in private schools, three leased cars, and the boat to pay off he had been dodging the repayments for weeks. His employer had forced all of his team to take unpaid leave for 6 weeks in an effort to retain their jobs and hopefully return once the government declared a new covid-normal period.
Thoughts of taking his kids out of private schools, selling the cars, and potentially downsizing his home wracked him with fear. They had lived an enormously comfortable life to date. Their friends and social circle were much the same. His father, on the cusp of his 97th birthday, had likened the pandemic to war and continued to remind him it was the health of his family that mattered. Money could be made again, “as long as you are all healthy,” he would say.
The stress of it all was causing him to have major mental health concerns and he was too proud to seek help. Shouldn’t he be able to provide for his family, wasn’t that a man’s role? Perhaps he should ask his wife to return to work and contribute financially until this at least blew over. She hadn’t worked in paid employment for over a decade looking after the day to day needs of the boys, the house and organising everyone’s life in general. Could she even find a job in this hostile work environment?
He quietly rose from the bed and went into his office finding a large sheet of plain white paper and his treasured fountain pen, a gift from his mother for his 50th birthday. Mind mapping was a tool he had used with his team for critical thinking exercises and had served him well in the past. Using a style of visual organisation in a hierarchical form he could show the relationships among pieces of the whole. He put his family in the middle of the page and drew a thick red circle around them.