There is a character in Dickens’ Bleak House that I can never forget. It’s Jo, the street sweeper. He has no education, no home. He just sweeps the roads every day. Any time he tries to sit down to rest he’s told to ‘move on’.
This came back to me after hearing the news last week about another boatload of desperate people reaching towards a better life. They never made it. France and England are squabbling over them, wanting the problem to move on as if it’s just a fly to be swatted away, not real people just like us.
These days when I go onto social media I see a street full of people striving to justify their existence, sell their books or grow their business. There’s a feeling that if we stop, we will lose out. The pressure of that is too much for some of us. For me too. I think right now most of us are tired and in need of a rest. Just like Jo.
If you think about it, all of it will soon be like the dust that Jo swept on the streets of London. Why do we keep telling everyone about the things we have done? I think it comes from the desire to matter. To someone, maybe to many. But you do matter. Sit with me for a while and know that. Jo may ‘not know nothink’ but he gets close to understanding that he is as much a part of the world as anyone:
‘To be hustled, and jostled, and moved on and really to feel that…I have no business, here, or there, or anywhere, and yet to be perplexed by the consideration that I am here somehow too.’
So next time you switch the news off or feel your heart sink a little with the news of other people’s success, remember that each individual life is precious.