Most weeks I am privileged to drive a different car, courtesy of an automaker, for the purposes of road testing and generally not doing a real job. A couple of weeks ago it happened to be an unexciting Citroen C4. It was one of those days when my beloved felt it was about time she dragged me around a mall like a tired, tetchy dog who just wants to lie down in the sun.
At one point, we had to step aside for a group of wheelchair-bound, mentally handicapped adults. This made us pause for thought.
Here in the United Kingdom we have an Honours system. Every New Year, a list is published of people nominated to receive some form of accolade for services to the country. Sometimes, we would hear of awards for ordinary folk who, in one way or another, have selflessly served their community. Sadly, this old tradition has been routinely devalued.
For example, our outgoing Prime Minister, David Cameron, issued his own list (something that retiring PM’s are allowed to do but rarely bother). It contained the names of business individuals who have donated money to his political party, sundry celebrities, various hangers-on, and his wife’s hair stylist. These people received awards with anachronistic names like “Order of The British Empire.” We haven’t had an empire more or less since we were summarily kicked off the American continent.
Some are made Lords and Ladies so that they can fall asleep at the taxpayers’ expense in the House of Lords – which is our second parliamentary chamber. Their job, allegedly, is to oversee the House of Commons where all the day-to-day politicians hang out.
Some are created Knights, dubbed with a sword by our Queen like some latter day Errol Flynn. Except they don’t have to battle dragons, save a maiden, or defeat disreputable dastards like the Sheriff of Nottingham. (That’s a real job by the way, albeit these days only ceremonial). They just have to give bucket-loads of cash to the relevant political party.
Certainly some regular citizens receive awards too, but these days it is all about celebrity or money. It leaves a nasty taste. It is all paid for by Joe Public who, today, is robbed, not by a rascal in Lincoln green tights, but rather a grey-suited Chancellor of The Exchequer.
Low Paid Workers
This is why, when we saw those poor unfortunates seemingly blithely unaware of their condition, we pondered the issue of community service. We all know more could be done, globally, for millions of ordinary people living in extraordinary and awful conditions. I want to concentrate now though on the people pushing the wheelchairs at the mall. All women. They are paid the UK minimum wage, yet they care for those souls selflessly and with infinite patience.
It was obvious.
Where are their medals? Where are their accolades?
It is highly unlikely that any of those women will ever appear on the British Honours List. The corridors of power will never hear their names yet they, like so many around the world, are probably the most deserving of recognition.
They are also very unlikely to drive the very latest automobiles as I am privileged to do.
Most weeks I pilot a different car. Those vehicles seem to be like the weeks that pass in my life. Some are boring or even slightly terrible. Many are unexceptional, and few are ever exciting or different. Meanwhile, most of those weeks have been lived in good health, peace, and harmony.
In your life it hopefully is the same. We need reminders like my thought-provoking visit to the mall. It forces us to stop complaining about trivial things. We should think ourselves lucky the sun sometimes shines on us as we go about our daily lives.
*Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite