Freedom from fear and a roof over your head

Lying on the floor trying to stretch my sore back and decide what of the many outrages this week to write about, I realised I’m grateful for my health, bung back and all.

It’s hard to maintain perspective with a sore back – it seems to permeate all your activities, or lack thereof, ironic given the advice for a sore back is keep moving.

I’ve had the all clear on serious matters so it’s off to the osteopath and back to the gym for me.  I’m sure it will come right – this will not be my permanent state of being.  While I’m no exercise junkie and my commitment to healthy living is inconsistent, I have a pass mark on the basics.

Appreciating my health reminded me of a week-long marae stay as part of my Department of Conservation days, many years ago.  We had to share something personal – some people had jewellery that had meaning, or spoke to their love of nature sharing a feather, or, like me, some had a family photo with them (this was pre-smart phones). 

One guy stands out in my memory.  He talked about his health – how physically able he was; how he appreciated the power of his legs to carry him up and down the rugged back country.  Having this tiny taste of being incapacitated that reminds me how lucky I am.  My back problem is fixable.

While I haven’t studied psychology, this health revelation reminds me of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  That’s the pyramid that starts at the bottom with life’s basics – food, shelter, warmth, then moves up to safety and freedom from fear, then love and belonging, then self-esteem, and finally the pinnacle of self-actualisation, that not many achieve.

Having a place to live is a foundation stone and in New Zealand we have families living in cars, in garages, crammed in with relatives.  The consequences of this are significant, especially for children and their health, let alone how it affects moving up the pyramid to self-esteem.

We can’t skip the basics – people need a place to live.  What’s happened to our country when people end up in debt to WINZ for the cost of emergency housing in a motel because there are no other options left for them?  How many unplanned nights in a motel could you afford before it became a millstone around your neck?

The other layer in Maslow’s hierarchy that’s come to me this week has been freedom from fear.  I’ve been impressed by the new “It’s not ok” campaign against domestic violence on TV.  The messages are getting specific and I hope they cut through to both men and women – things like “It’s not ok to say she was asking for it” and “It’s not ok to control your family with threats”, both followed with “but it is ok to ask for help”.

Seeing this so soon after the devastating death of three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri, I want to believe it will have impact.  I read a Radio Live interview with Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills talking about Moko. 

He said: “Say you know that your neighbour or your friend or someone in your family is in a violent relationship.  The first thing to tell them is that you care about them and you're worried for them… follow with an 'I notice that you're sad' or 'he's been really angry and started to become more aggressive’… Then you need to ask, 'Are you safe at home?' And often people go, 'yeah, we're safe' but you'll get a clue. They'll be a bit hesitant.”

Dr Wills said you then need to ask the specific question - 'Is anyone hurting anyone'… 'Is anyone hurting the kids?'

We’ve got to step out of our comfort zones and show concern for our friends and neighbours by asking these questions, rather than rage once it’s too late for another child like Moko.