When I had a couple of hours to kill in Athens this morning I decided to walk, without thinking too much, and observe. I am as much an observer here as I am a participant in what is normally regarded as an exciting event – the premiere of a movie. And yes, something has gone drastically wrong. You see it in the news but it’s not until you walk the streets of Athens that you realise just how rotten this economic crisis is.
I can handle the old beggars with missing limbs. They are survivors. The old men rattling tins. I just can’t have a response for the women holding their children in the street, covering their faces for shame. The old men catch your eye and smile when you drop them a Euro. They’ve got this far, they are towards the end of their lives. They’ve got long CVs. The mothers and children are just starting out on the difficult journey of survival and they have no idea if they are going to make it. They don’t look you in the eye for shame. They are begging for their children – who clearly aren’t eating enough and are cold. This is almost impossible to accept.
It’s been said many times and by people more intelligent and qualified than myself. But there are enough resources to go around. Something has gone drastically wrong. Terribly wrong. How does a banking industry make billions from thin air, abusing the system along the way, without paying its way? How do big multinationals still avoid paying their taxes? How is wealth still concentrated in the hands of the few? Why are mothers and children begging in streets of Athens? If there was ever a time to reassess the concept of sharing wealth then it is now. And it starts at the very top and it filters down to us. We are, after all, one consciousness, one family. We can all play our part. It’s simply not effective enough to say that this is the job of government. It is not enough to say ‘I pay my taxes and government solves the problem’. We need to start employing our own magic.
I probably gave 20 Euros away this morning – making those cups, tins and boxes rattle. The money I gave will not solve the problem, but the noise the coins make when they hit the other coins at the bottom of that cup is magical. The noise reverberates beyond this physical plane – it transcends the noise of traffic and car horns and arguments. In the world beyond this physical world, it’s a big noise – a bell of hope. In the realm beyond this one, that noise gets louder and bigger and it does not go unnoticed. It echoes for eternity. Do you believe me? Or do you think this is poetical? There is a world beyond this one where the coin you throw into a cup rings like a church bell. I can’t hear it but I can feel it. And for the mother and child it’s one small reason to have hope. Hope is contagious and it can bring the best out of us. You don’t need to make a film to offer hope, you can bake a loaf and share it, give away a few coins or just stop and say hello. Each time you do, you ring a giant bell.