Grateful for a Reality Check

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have heard (well, read) me joke about this house. The kitchen and bathroom are stupendously ugly, as is the rest of the place. Our landlord’s motto when it comes to home furnishing is “let them have beige” and beige it is. Beige, beige, beige, beige, beige. When we move I am never, ever having a skerrick of beige in our house again.

The areas that are not beige are either maroon, brown or one of those greens that just gets you down. He is also really into window stickers. I suspect these are meant to trick people into thinking they are stained glass.

Beige couch, beige curtains, beige walls… pirate fairy.

The same thought has been applied to the house’s street appeal. There is none.

But really, this is fine. We have plenty of space, the location is excellent and it’s just for a few years. And I know we are lucky compared to many.

I got a big fat reminder of how lucky we are the other day. I was in the supermarket, chatting to one of the men who work there. Our boys are at school together so we usually just ask about each other’s families. This time, though, he had a different question for me.

“How many people live in your house?”

I was about to make my usual quip about it being the ugliest house ever, but this time I didn’t. Instead I just told him our family lived there.

“What, just you? The four of you? No grandparents, cousins?”
“Just the four of us.”

With that he whistled under his breath. This man, who works incredibly long hours stacking shelves, could not believe only four people live in this house. Ah. I still maintain it is ugly and I will continue to laugh at it. But I’m just that bit more grateful that we can call it home.

That same day, I had been whinging to my husband about the state of my wardrobe. I have one pair of jeans and they don’t fit. They look, as my son would say, “ridiclious.” So I was trying to convince my husband that I need to go shopping as a matter of urgency.

I was at the school gates waiting to collect my son, when I got chatting to one of the dads. He is from Uganda and in the past he’s told me a few snippets from his life there – things like running through a field with bullets whizzing overhead, family members being murdered…that kind of thing.

Anyway, with the sorry state of my jeans fresh in my mind, I asked him how he was. I don’t know how we got onto the topic, but he spoke about how incredible it is “that these children have a childhood! They get to play and go to school, we don’t have to move them around every month or so like in a country at war – they get to be children! Isn’t that just the best, Rachel? Isn’t that just amazing? I feel so lucky, I look at these children and I really cannot believe my luck.”

Of course I agreed, for he is absolutely right. But what do I know? I have only ever known this kind of life. I can only imagine what this man has been through, and millions of others too. To state the obvious, most of the things that trouble us are so insignificant in comparison. And I don’t want to come across all preachy, but who gives a shit about these everyday worries when our children are loved, safe, healthy and in school?

(And now I’m feeling all guilty because I still do want some jeans.)

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