I have an uncomfortable relationship with the faults and evils of the world. I come from a country where we think that such things are mostly issues of the past. However, on a global level, they are still conditions that a great number of people suffer from, every day. What can or should I do about it? And am I guilty? Most people who grow up in northern Europe are familiar with the stories and fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish author. One of the most well-known stories is the one of the little match girl. If you’re not familiar with the story, it goes like this:
The Little Match Girl
It was a very cold winter night close to the end of the year. A small poor girl was trying to sell matches on the street because her strict father had told her to. She wasn’t allowed to come home before she had sold all of them, or otherwise, she would get a beating. The girl tried to sell the matches but nobody acknowledged her. The little match girl didn’t have enough clothes for the freezing weather. She tried to warm up with the matches by lighting them up, one by one. Eventually, she ran out of matches. When she lit the last one, she saw her grandmother, who had passed away, and she took her to heaven.
It’s a sad story, especially when you are a child around the same age as the little match girl.
However, the story doesn’t get any less sad the older you get. Even if you don’t relate to the child in the same way as you did when you were young, you start to understand how wrong the story is even better. You are more aware of how bad things can be. You are more aware of how bad people can be.
It was hard for me to understand how those people could just walk past her and ignore her, why didn’t anyone take her inside? There weren’t any beggars on the street when I was growing up so I just couldn’t comprehend it.
Things have changed. Now there are beggars on the street, and now I find myself doing the same thing as the people in the story. I don’t know what to think of it. It is a very complicated phenomenon and it’s easy to dehumanize. It’s probably what the adults in the story of the little match girl thought as well. What can you do about it? There are complicated Socio-economic factors behind it. While that is true, in the end, it’s still a person that suffers, despite the socio-economic factors that are to blame.
As we’re getting closer to the end of the year, it’s getting freezing cold outside here. We should strive to change the structures and policies that maintain the status quo. There are no easy answers or quick fix solutions to these problems. But there’s an easy answer to encounters: People are always people, and should be treated as ones. Every human being has the right to a good life and to be treated with dignity, no matter what their background.
What should you do about it? You do what you can. Even if you can’t save the whole world, helping even a little bit is a little bit forward.
There’s sometimes a homeless lady close to my building who is making wreaths on the street and selling them. They’re not really that nice, to be honest. But when I see her again, I’ll buy one.