The expectation of gratefulness and its difficulties
Watching a section of the press and then the comments of others who have difficulties in understanding the problem of thankfulness and an inability to emphasise and walk in another's shoes lead me to write this piece.
Training people to become foster carers one of the things that I always emphasise is the fact that if you are expecting a foster child to be grateful, you are probably going to be disappointed. I am sometimes wrong, and some are incredibly grateful, but we should not expect it.
Why should a child who has been taken away from birth parents be grateful? Instead, they might see you as the enemy. Can you get into this paradigm and understand just how they feel and see you?
I was responsible for setting up housing in another part of the UK. Kindly offered to a house by a group on a rental basis. After a short time, offer withdrawn as placing people there, they decided that these asylum seekers were just not grateful, that recurring problem again.
Then there are those making it to the UK which then put into the Asylum-seeking group. Should they be grateful for finding a safe place? Sometimes discovering that place has itself been fraught with trauma by people who do not believe you, express racist attitudes towards you or regard you as an economic migrant. What do we mean by economic migrant? If you are starving and move somewhere to earn a living, are you an economic migrant? Maybe you had better die where you are.
Why should my expectations as an asylum seeker be ever so grateful? Did I ask to be born in a country surrounded by war, did I pre-request that I will be placed in a country where food is short? Was I aware that despite my education, my degree there would be no work for me to earn a living, support myself and even a family and children?
Connecting with such people has been an enriching and educating experience. Listing many times to heart-rending stories and very often thinking to myself, could I have gone through what you have gone through and If I had wouldn't, I be simply crazy mad?
Of course, many are suffering mental stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, acting in ways that seem to those who have not had the experience ungrateful, demanding unreasonable.
Then again, we argue about the cost of getting to the UK without any understanding of the shoes they walked in, and from whence they came. Several times in my experience, I have run into such people. One young lady I regularly gave a lift to places in my car, a stranger in the UK, not demanding but looking for help. One day I entered her home and was surprised to see pictures of her with many of the World Leaders, shocked, I asked how come that is you. My Dad was the Prime Minister of so, and so country came the casual reply.
Another time with an asylum seeker who was surprised to find themselves in the UK, I asked where did you think you were, the reply was Belgium, and I could not understand the language here why are they not speaking French.
I asked another what they wanted to do and was told they planned to be the Minster of Health in the UK surprised at such ambition I wondered about the background. Oh, my Father, who was killed in front of me was the Finance minister of my country they replied. Why should we be surprised at their expectations of maybe meals and the like?
I have witnessed very bizarre reactions from such people, for which one should not be surprised considering their history and journeys. Often with the increased pressure by a suspicious bureaucracy and cynical people.
One of our key workers pretended to by an asylum seeker, to try and understand the process, unbeknown to me until after the event I hasten to add. Their report though was not encouraging, they felt badly treated, and belittled and was glad that they were born a UK citizen and did not have to face any more hostility. I guess lots of us do not even want to try to empathise; we do not want to walk in anyone else shoes perhaps we prefer our ivory palace and its ignorance and who can blame you. I do not wish to risk my life on a rubber boat across the busiest shipping lane in the world. I would need to be significantly pushed to do that.
If you are going to stay in your corner; please do not become an armchair critic of people who are trying to survive, running away from persecution, war famine and just a terrible life.