Tea and Tolerance – the past 9 months of contributions …

sm Tea & Tolerance_Harehills Sept 14_Maria Spadafora (34)

Questions posed and answers given across 18 groups we have worked with since September 2014 (as remembered and interpreted by the Tea and tolerance team.)

What is the difference between you and me? We noticed that two of us were wearing stripey t-shirts and jeans with pony tails. We saw the similarities first. Do we generally look at the external things before internal ones? I guess if you think about needs we are a lot more similar than we are different. I heard that we are 60% the same as a banana! I think its one dna strand that differs humans form apes is it?

What’s your favourite word? Love. Peace. Hope. Chagrin. I like that word. Discombobulated….it means you know a bit out of sorts, not quite feeling balanced or with it. Oh I like that word….i’m going to use that.

Why are you here? That sounds quite esoteric. Like what is my purpose on this earth? Literally, the answer… I’m here so I can get out of the house, to meet people and do things.

What makes you feel good? Looking good on the outside always makes me feel a lot better. Tanning bed makes me feel brilliant! Travelling. I’d like to go to Egypt – I d like to live there- teach english or dance. I would love that.

When do you laugh at yourself? Yes – all the time. Got to laugh at your self. If you don’t laugh, then you might cry. I laugh when I look in the mirror.

How much are you worth? As a mother of a disabled boy I am priceless- as his carer i am indispensable. Makes me really emotional to realise that.

Nought – you come into the world with nought and you leave the same way. Is what we are worth based on how much we earn? Could it be another way? Where what we are worth isn’t connected to our income. How else do we contribute to be valuable? I want to contribute. I want to be able to contribute. I do my best to be there for people, to listen to them, to inject some humour.

Kindness or Intelligence? Both surely. Kindness surely is intelligence. Of course sometimes people choose intellect and logic over being kind, but one doesn’t have to exclude the other. Every action we take surely is best coming from a place of kindness and intelligence?

What makes you happy? Family makes me happy. Sometimes. When we are not arguing. I love my family. Good food makes me happy. These guys….that come here make me happy. Dancing. Drawing. My friends. Being with the people I love.

What makes you feel good? Talking with friends, meeting new people, getting out of the house,having a laugh, going on trips when I can. Blue skies. Making things. Good friends. Having time to do the things I want to do.

What inspires you? People doing amazing things like raising lots of money for charity by trekking in the Himalayas or running a marathon or something. I couldn’t do that. Amazing cities. Being in my camper van. A beautiful view. A lovely day. Love. Beauty. Lots of things.

What is Love? I’ve been married for 57 years. Love is caring for another person – putting their needs ahead of your own. Or is that devotion maybe. Love is putting up with each other and sticking together. Love is arguing things out – a marriage without arguments means someone is under the thumb. That’s no good. Love gosh…I had a perfect wife…I lived a wild life and she put up with it. I had freedom and fun. I did everything. Love hurts. It scares me to love someone. I feel trapped by it. I’m afraid for when they will leave. Love is seeing the magic in another person. It can get mixed up with need, possession, desire….but the love isn’t those things. Best way to love someone is a way that allows them to be totally themselves.

Can you love someone even though you do not agree with their beliefs? Yes. Plenty of people I love that I don’t agree with on every belief. Does it make a difference what the difference of belief is? Do we love different people in different ways? Is love two-fold? Or multi-faceted? Yes – simply put, of course I can. Whether I always do, that is less easy. Isn’t that the point of this? Of making things better? To genuinely listen with compassion to someone who you disagree with? Love the person – question the belief. I love family unconditionally, other people I choose to love, and then there is love of other human beings, places and things that I encounter in life? With unconditional love of family and so on, I disregard the beliefs I don’t agree with. Though  are their limits to this – like very extreme views that would threaten this love? What if they actively participated in things I disagreed with? Zenophobe? Homophobe? Racist? Paedophile? Would that be tolerable for me? Do we then need to make it clear that we disagree with that particular belief? And how does that affect the relationship and love we share with that person? We agreed with people who are less close to us, we can have an array of beliefs we don’t agree on. Though do we agree to disagree or just never speak about those differences? With romantic love, I expect or need those major beliefs and values to match I think.  Would I choose not to love someone or get to a point of loving someone who had beliefs I did’t agree with? if so, what happens if I already love someone and discover a major belief mismatch? Though it might be that i can still love them…but perhaps not be with them in a partnership.

What are you afraid of? Spiders. I hate them. The dentist. Losing my kids. Yeah. The social taking my kids off me. The unknown. Loneliness. Illness. Death. Change. Everything. Nothing. I try not to be afraid of anything.

Where do you belong? Everywhere. Or nowhere – because if I belong in one place then that means I don’t belong somewhere else. Everyone always thinks they are not in the circle or ‘in group’ but I wonder who is in that circle? Perhaps its just that we perceive our selves in a place of not belonging. we should accept and include everyone. Pull down all the borders.

What do you think of your neighbour? Oh don’t ask. that is THE question at the moment. She is just so tricky. Oh I don’t want to talk about it. Interesting question. Do you mean in my house, or in neighbouring countries. I like my next door neighbours. I make appoint of checking in on them. I have never met my neighbours. I am only aware of them because of their noise – the music is loud and they argue.

What are you ready for? Something new. Something else. Anything. I’m ready for anything…thats what I always say and I mean it. I am ready to have somewhere to live. Homelessness isn’t nice. I’ve done a lot of sofa surfing and I’m ready to have my own place..not living in someone else’s home. I am ready for more income. I am ready for better health.

What is freedom? Being able to do what you want. I do what i want mostly. Freedom for me is a day of fun and not having to work. I feel pretty lucky because I am very free. Not everyone is though. Some people are afraid to say or do what they want because they might have a partner who won’t like it or maybe will hurt them if they do. Having a passport…gaining legal residency in uk….that means my husband and I are free to travel again. People think its incredibly easy to get into this country- it’s really not. Even with being married its difficult and time consuming. Its taken over five years. It’s an interesting one. I recognise that I live a fairly free life. I have the freedom to speak my mind, walk the streets, particularly compared to some countries but I don’t feel free. I feel trapped and burdened by responsibilities. Maybe the freedom comes when you are older…your kids are grown, you have more time, and less ties and more choice to do what you want.

How does it feel to be right? People can have their views even if you don’t agree…everyone has the right to have their own views. I have the right to have a different view. Is that respect? (Smiles.) Feels great. He’s the quiz master, so he’s always right. Brilliant. Love being right. Im always right. Love it when I google something like whose the first actor to play Bond…it was Sean Connery! Yep I was right.

When do we ask for help? If we rarely ask, why is that? Sometime I don’t ask because I am not willing to hear ‘no!’ Is it somehow worse to ask and have that request turned down? How does that feel? If we know people who do not ask for help even though we may see or feel there is a need for help….how do we support them? I think there is something in how requests are met that is important. Requests met with anger, with guilt, with sympathy can perhaps be requests we wish had never shared. And what if we are met with empathy? Does the yes/no matter if the person gets where we are coming from? Maybe not.

In whose interest? What do we mean? Is it our own interest we wondered, because how can it be anybody else’s? Is there even such a thing as an action that is entirely ‘altruistic’ with no personal gain? Ah, now that question makes so much sense.My interest. Can it be for other though? The greater good.?The common good? But what and who is that?

How does it feel to be vulnerable? First we talked about what ‘vulnerable’ means as it has different meanings in different contexts. Vulnerable to harsh weather, or one’s home is vulnerable, or i feel vulnerable alone on that dark street, or children are vulnerable to all sorts of things, as opposed to choosing to be ‘open’ and so in that openness being ‘vulnerable’. We thought about how it can be good to be open or porous to what is around us ( hence vulnerable) but only if we have the resilience and resources to cope with those vulnerabilities. Being vulnerable can break us down but that isn’t always a bad thing. It can lead to better and more honest lives that bring us more happiness or other rewards. It can move us forward or somewhere unexpected – again sometimes this is a great thing. Is vulnerability the only state to be in? Are we not all ‘vulnerable’ humans on some level? Is it about choice? If you choose to be vulnerable then that can be a great thing so long as you have the resources around you to deal with whatever happens, but if the state is thrust upon you it is less easy. You can still choose how you react though – and whether you go into a fearful or resourceful place in that situation.

What makes you angry? Many things. Far too many to remember. Sometimes the more I think about this question, the more things I get angry about. When I see young children with their parents and their parents are on mobile phones, not playing with them at all. Those kids are little for such a short time, and they are just missing the whole thing. It’s a loss. People coming in here and telling me they are going to vote UKIP….like thats going to make anything better! It just makes me so angry….I want to explain to them how they aren’t going to be better off the way they believe they will, ….that there aren’t people from other countries coming in and stealing ‘their’ jobs. I mean, how can you have your jobs stolen when you aren’t even applying for jobs….but you can’t change people’s minds…their views are set.They’ll just look at you like you’re mad and think what they think. People being harsh and angry with others….I saw a woman in a supermarket and she was chatting to the woman at the till and taking her time and the person behind her just ‘lost it’. of course THERE are two sides to every story….it was supposed to be a fast till, but still. there is just no need to shout at people. It’s abusive. Perhaps the check out assistant could have managed it better…but for some people, coming in and talking to someone at the check out maybe the only conversation they have all day. You think about that and maybe being slowed down a little bit, losing a few minutes, doesn’t seem so important. Things happening that I feel are unfair. Things that I have no power to change but I am unable to accept. Is this perhaps the state of intolerance making me feel angry? If their were no limits, what would you do? There’s a question what wouldn’t I do? (Many smiles in response to this question.) Me- I’d get rid of all the bad people who put me down and make me feel bad. I would have all the luxuries I could want. I would have only nice people around me.

Common good or individual satisfaction? So me or other people? Both. Can it be both? Is it selfish to think of myself? Surely we have to please ourselves in order to please other people. I’m a giver me, thats my problem- too trusting. I do things a lot for others. I’d like to get to a point where i do things for me.

What stops you in your tracks? Nothing. Nothing stops me. If there is a wall in my way I’ll just find a way to go through it or over it, but i always keep going….keep moving forward. What else can you do? ……Death….maybe that stops me….when someone you love dies that’s hard. I guess extremes whether good or bad stop us…..a beautiful moment..a sad moment….something that arrests the senses….yes its the extremes that stop me in my tracks. Great questions. Great kindnesses, beauty or wonder stops me in my tracks. Children asking you for love. It’s easy to ignore a small human when we are busy but when your daughter you for a hug in the supermarket thats ‘fair play’ –  I just get down on your knees and hug. Intense pleasure, pain, danger, anger, beauty and love. My mother dying. The recent election result!!! Extreme actions, wrong doings and emotions…a really beautiful view, a poignant moment, a child smiling, children in general…these things make me stop…and be hopeful…and smile. Babies. They are so innocent – full of hope. Nothing to do but stop and fall into their eyes.

Do you really listen? Yes. I can’t hear that well, so that’s an issue with listening, but still I’m a pretty good listener. I don’t always choose o listen…if it’s a talk and I’m not interested in it. Sometimes I listen. Not always. Sometimes I just lose it – someone says something I don’t agree with or that makes me feel angry or hurt… its hard for me to listen then. When people are telling me what to do in my own home or telling me how to raise our kids.

Have we lost the art of conversation? Maybe. I hate Face Book – it’s a lot of rubbish. Why do I want to know about what someone had for dinner? People spend a lot of time on computers, tablets, phones. Is it good? It probably means people talk less. Then again it’s a way to keep in contact with people on the other side of the world and actually I know someone who used skype as part of their funeral so that the daughter of the man who had died could be there. It was weird with this woman walking around pointing her computer at everyone but you know it’s a good if it brings people together.

Are you entitled? No. I’d say no. It’s a bit like the question about freedom. I know I am free and I know I am entitled to lots of things but I don’t feel like I am entitled to much of anything. Funny question. Great question actually. What are we each entitled to? What is entitlement anyway? Are we entitled to love?..to safety? …a home?…to a kindness and support when we are vulnerable…being looked after and cared about irrespective of what we earn or have? Are we entitled to respect and compassion? Love. Freedom. Kindness. Water and Food. Shelter- somewhere to live. Shouldn’t  all humans be entitled to those things?

What makes you stand up? I usually stand up for people. I hope I would anyway. Sometimes you have to weigh up if you are strong enough and able to make a difference if you stand up. I have been in a position where I didn’t feel I could and that didn’t feel nice at all. I felt weak. When I was younger it was easier, i would think more now before getting involved. Once I heard this teacher shouting at these kids and i just had to say something. it’s not right speaking to people like that. He apologised to me after.

If you could change anything what would you change? Like what do I want most…..? I want a job. I would be healthy and fit….able to work….pain free. You can’t do anything without health. Money doesn’t buy health either. Well, I guess it can help…. can’t it…it’s not the money itself but what it gives you access to. Sometimes I just sit in my house and I feel sad, you know. I give a lot when I am out with people and I get home and I’m exhausted. I would make cheese healthy. It is, isn’t it?!! Now thats not a small question is it. I would change it so that humans average life expectancy was 300 years or more…so that they live long enough to have to deal with the consequences of their choices. l would be ‘good vibes’ electricity – enough to power the whole world and this fuel I create would have a zero carbon footprint. What if that was possible? I would make everyone start on an equal footing.

How do we genuinely make things better for everybody? I could write a PHD on that. Depends what you mean by ‘everybody’ and ‘genuine’. Many times when this word is used by politicians I have found it to be disingenuous – to get our votes – they ‘genuinely’ promise but they don’t deliver. The other week I met a girl who was pushing her bike because the brakes weren’t working. I had a look at it and fiddled with something…it was only a two minute job. The brakes were just disconnected. I didn’t expect anything back from her. People are always suspicious now of people offering help. But that’s genuinely making things better – we help each other, we do a good deed each day. We smile and offer kindness to the people around us. If every person in the world does that, then it changes the world for the better doesn’t it? We take responsibility and stop blaming other people – its ridiculous you cant clear your own path from snow, councils won’t sharpen your shears, people living in fear of being sued….we need to be doing things that make sense and compassionate. How does it help if I fall over on the ice because nobody could clear the path or for fear of falling I stay in my home for days. Impossible. You can’t make things better for anyone. Can you? I hate this government – all governments. They don’t listen. They do one thing then they do something else completely different. I don’t bother with any of that. It’s all about the people who have money. They don’t care about the people who don’t have anything. They don’t care about me. The NHS will be broke in 30 years – its shocking, a disgrace.

How can we forgive? It’s very difficult. I never forgive. Three strikes and you are out. Can we forgive? And even if I can, should I? How do I do that anyway? Does letting go, moving on, finding ‘grace’ help? What about putting myself in the other person’s ‘shoes’? I don’t agree with that forgive but don;t forget. How can you really forgive someone if you haven’t forgotten? Think the kindness and reason to forgive sis for ourselves. If I hold on to the anger or hate for their wrong doing, it’s me it hurts because it steals my happiness an peace of mind, doesn’t it?

What needs to happen so we can have peace in this world? Like what would you do if you were in charge…like the government?We need to get rid of all the foreigners claiming fraudulent benefits and taking our jobs. People who come to this country shouldn’t get any benefits or free health care. Its wrong. One guy lives in europe somewhere and just comes over to register each of his kids so that he can claim benefits. He doesn’t even live here! We just have the gates wide open. Free stuff – thats why everyone wants to come here. We need to keep the country for us and shut our borders. Whats the difference if a person is from another country or this one – people from this country cheat the system as well and all that stuff. Everyone should get help. What if it was your sister that was from Africa and they came here and couldn’t get help? How would that feel? Would you want people you love to be thrown out? What if you went to another country and you needed help – were ill and in need of care? Isn’t it the same thing? We are all the same. I don’t vote. I never vote. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. That’s it – what’s the point in voting. They don’t care and my vote won’t change anything. But if you don’t vote then how can you change anything? Do you even have the right to say anything about the system if you don’t vote. Yes she has the right to have an opinion. Of course she does. Anyway I don’t know why I’m getting at you, I haven’t even registered to vote myself!

How does it feel to be wrong? Oooh, it sucks. I hate being wrong – it can make me fall apart. It’s hard in moments to forgive myself my mistake – then I make myself wrong for it- which is heart breaking. Then I remember or try to remind myself that learning to walk ( like all learning) is a series of failed attempts.

Who is the Enemy? I am. I am my own worst enemy. There have been situations where I have blamed others for situations but when I really think about it, it was me – my choices. Its good to realise this I think. Gives me the choice to do something different next time. If I remember. Everyone you don’t like. Is that true? David Cameron is my enemy. All the political parties because they all do wrong by people who don’t have much. They make promises and don’t keep them. It’s disgusting. So what do we do about that? I am! I’m the ‘baddie’ – pow pow!!

Who matters to you most? Me. Is that allowed? Can I matter most? Not one person…all my family and close friends matter. Can depend on the situation…if my car has broken down, maybe a mechanic or someone else who can help matters most…or even that depends. Everybody matters, don’t they? Think of the bees….we are all significant and vital to each others survival. Does the answer have to be ‘others’? Is it selfish if that person that matters most is me? Can I really be there for the people I love, if I am not the person who matters most to me? Isn’t that my responsibility? To make myself happy…to show up for me? I am the only person I cannot live without. Though others are perhaps the reason to live.

Where do you draw the line? Right here. That’s the end.