There are plenty of stress trigger points come the middle of December, but I can always be relied on to find some more.
This year I have been much exercised about whether I should ask for the Amy Winehouse CD for Christmas. Her own father has asked us not to buy it – so avoiding funding her expensive drug habit but can I, as one individual, really make a difference?
Not buying it doesn’t have to mean not having it these days, but the alternatives of illegal downloading, file-sharing or copying all come with their own ethical dilemmas. Ever since the 1980s, when I was taken to task for saying I didn’t have time to camp at Greenham Common, I think I have been trying to atone by working myself into a frenzy over everything else.
Sometimes the world can seem harsh. We spend our working lives struggling to make a difference for families who often have nothing, or who are existing on the edge of criminality or where there can seem no right or fair answer. When we come home it would be nice to be able to switch off, take a long bath with a glass of something – and then go shopping for England in common with the rest of the population at this time of year.
I want to give. I need to be generous. It is rewarding to find that one thing which means so much to someone, something they’ve always wanted. So it’s a goat then, or education for a child in Africa. But then some of those schemes have received a bad press so it’s a jumper and a book again. Then I have to worry about how I’m getting to the shops, which place to stop for coffee and what they’re wrapping my purchases in.
There are times when it seems that professional ethics are the easy bit. We metaphorically sign up to them when we chose our career. We start to understand them better through training and experience and they become part of who we are. Working out a consistent and honest approach to the rest of our life can seem far more problematic. But, as they say, ethics are for life – not just for Christmas. And a very happy new year to you too!
Helen Bonnick is a supervisor of school-home support workers and a social worker