What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?

As happens, a few things coincided recently, forcefully shoving me to look at the big picture and ask if I’m attending to the things that really matter.

I attended a Futures Forum session at the Scottish Parliament. The format for discussion was to look at a set of future scenario describing the better society that we had created by 2025 and use that to identify the decisions we should make now about public spend. I was struck by the dominant assumption that the economic crisis is a blip: a temporary aberration in the process of continuous economic growth. A couple of years of austerity and it will be back to normal – business as usual.

I don’t think so.

I also received a letter informing me that Cyrenians have been left a legacy from the estate of Peter Yeo. Peter was a volunteer at Cyrenians when it all started in 1968. He was the first staff member in 1971 and later a Board member, finishing as Chairman and my supervisor for many years. Peter spent his professional life helping people to make sense of things and cope better. He died last year, too young, but with a peace and grace that is his lasting legacy to me.

The third nudge was a conversation with my 13 year old son, Paddy. He’s at the age of realising that his own life is finite. In prospect of this he swerves wildly between depressive nihilism and a fierce determination to make something of himself.

In 1968 people like Peter saw – in their world – the human and societal damage caused by ignoring, blaming and dehumanising people who had ‘dropped out’ of mainstream society. The pioneers defied conventions, broke the rules, challenged received wisdom and, most importantly of all, committed their lives to making homelessness an important social issue. Those activists can look back proudly on the distance travelled and the difference made. I hope that we, who are active today working for a better world, have the vision to see the important things amidst the ephemera, the wisdom to find solutions and the courage to make them happen.


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