When I think about poverty, I am not unaware of the irony of doing so from the position of privilege. As an elite, private school, we enjoy the very best of education, the highest level of comfort and the optimum degree of consumer satisfaction. However, the degree of privilege we benefit from also brings with it a high level of emotional responsibility and an expectation of leadership. Being in a position of economic power frees up the time to consume news and to reflect upon issues. It ideally qualifies us to view the bigger picture and to take in much more than a hurried snapshot of society.
It is this position from which we have embarked upon Live Below the Line, a national initiative whereby participants are challenged to spend just £1 per day on food and drink. Today was the first day, for 20 students and eight staff, to economise, innovate and consider the best way to approach what to us is an optional, temporary predicament. To make the most of our situation, and to mirror our holistic approach to problem solving, we have decided to pool our resources. Each day this week, the girls will be cooking and preparing a meal for all the participants for a maximum of 30p per head. As well as ensuring that everyone Taking part, including me, is well fed and nourished, this also offers us an opportunity to come together and discuss the wider issues of domestic and global poverty.
It is in this area that we are rich. The intellectual bounty and mental stimulation we enjoy each day are akin to opening a picnic basket of ideas and feasting at will. We will, however, never be replete. Today, I was so impressed with the way the girls approached the challenge of cooking for a large group on such a tight budget. There were tensions, there were frustration, but – above all – there was negotiation and care. Our pasta and vegetables were served without fuss and they were extremely tasty. For me, the enjoyment was underpinned by the knowledge of the deeper meaning behind it and our sated appetites afterwards were testament not just to the food but to the compassion and purpose that seasoned every mouth full.
Even on £1 each a day, we are very rich indeed.