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"My faith in the people governing us is, on the whole, infinitesimal; my faith in The People governed is, on the whole, illimitable." -- Charles Dickens.
As we approach Christmas, the memory of MPs in the foodbank debate laughing at the notion of poor people fighting over cheap food could have been enough to dampen anyone’s Christmas spirit. But what Charles Dickens asserted over a century ago is still true: many of the people those MPs represent are more generous, more noble, and more selfless than the MPs could ever imagine.
Take 16 year old Jordon Cox, represented in Parliament by Eric Pickles MP. When Jordon’s parents split up, Jordon saw his Mum struggling to make ends meet on her salary as an NHS administration assistant. He decided to help by scouring the internet for supermarket discount vouchers, and soon became an expert. "It's taken a bit of learning, but now I've managed to get our weekly shop down from £60 to £10 on a bad week.
"Sometimes we've even managed to get it for free. We do have to plan our lives around what's on offer though."
One suspects that most MPs on the government benches, if they had developed this skill at Jordon’s age, would have seen it as an entrepreneurial opportunity to ‘get on’ and enrich themselves. But Jordon doesn’t think like that. On December 1st he began spending hours each day on the internet hunting for vouchers.
When he had 470 he went to his local supermarket and filled three shopping trolleys with food. At the checkout the bill came to £572.16, but when the vouchers were applied, it all cost 4p.
Jordon promptly handed the whole lot over to a local charity which helps struggling families, saying, "The Christmas shop was definitely the best experience of my life. I feel so pleased that I could help so many people."
As for honesty and integrity, our trust in those who govern us is at an all time low, as Minsters and even the Prime Minister regularly make statements which prove to be false. And even after being punished for claiming inappropriate expenses, one of our ‘noble Lords’ appears to be unable to resist the temptation to extract every possible penny from the public purse.
Perhaps members of both Houses of Parliament should be obliged to read the story of five year old Faith, a little girl who has put them to shame with her behaviour this Christmas. Faith visited the Cambridge branch of John Lewis, and while she was there she accidentally broke a Christmas bauble. The store was very busy and nobody noticed, but when she got home Faith wrote this letter, ‘To John Lewis Cambridge I'm sorry I broke a Christmas bauble on Saturday. It cost two pounds. Here is the money for it. Sorry again, Faith, aged 5."
Taped to the letter were two pound coins. John Lewis set out to find Faith, to thank her for her honesty. They did find her, but her parents wisely decided against any publicity, so she remains known only as Faith, which seems appropriate for a little girl who managed to restore a lot of people’s faith in human nature.
I hope that over their Christmas break the privileged and prosperous men and women who laughed at foodbank use, or claimed every penny they could in expenses whilst telling the poor to tighten their belts, will take a moment to consider the examples set by Jordon and Faith and the many other selfless, generous, honest people in the UK.
* Christmas on Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/christmas
© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeadenTweet