Dr John Smith: Changing lives is something to talk about

Our lives would be transformed by transforming others, says Dr John Smith
Our lives would be transformed by transforming others, says Dr John Smith

Stand in a supermarket queue, wait for a bus, sit in a cafe and listen.

You will hear lots about health problems, sometimes so much that you think the entire population is ill.

At other times it is holidays, school, fashion, make-up , marriages, football, work, boyfriends or girlfriends, and sometimes the lack of them.

It is all the stuff of life and, at times, more interesting than any television soap opera.

But it is all very inward looking, very parochial. It is about us, and I want to argue that we should try to talk beyond ourselves, getting a feel for how other people live and how we might in some way offer help and assistance.

A self-obssessed community goes nowhere, an outward-looking community grows and goes places.

Stand in a supermarket queue with me for a minute and imagine someone in front of you talking about a girl called Bithi.

She is 15 and never knew her mum and dad. An aunt and uncle brought her up but did so by treating her as their servant. She never had enough to eat or enough clothes to wear.

She slept on the floor in front of the toilet.

At the age of 10 she ran away, but again ended up as a servant many miles away. Her aunt found her and brought her back.

She ran away again and became a child on the street and a woman tried to sell her to traffickers. Again she ran, but this time found a safe place to live run by a charity.

Only 15, she has suffered a life of abuse, violence and exploitation.

So there you are in the queue, and you hear all this. The queue stops. The checkout assistant stops and everybody listens.

There are more stories of other girls raised in brothels, of young children working in factories so unsafe that we would run a mile, of sexual abuse and trafficking.

The stories are endless.

What do we do? Nod to each other, shake our heads and get on with our lives?

Or do we do something, talk to each other, ask how we might get involved in helping girls like Bithi halfway across the world, for they are our neighbours too?

This is the real world that needs our help. We need to talk about it, be shocked by it, acknowledge how real it is and get involved, educate ourselves, give to charities that know and work in these areas and become a community that appreciates how fortunate it is by doing and giving to the very poorest.

Our lives would be transformed by transforming others. Now that would be something to talk about.