An extract from “Tomorrow Will Be Different” ( Paroles pour demain)
Tomorrow Will Be Different
How can I express the anguish of these families whose gas and electricity have been cut off by the authorities in the depths of winter, robbing their homes of all hope of warmth?
In one of these homes, the baby is barely two weeks old. At night, his mother can’t warm him up. During the day, neighbors take him in to keep him warm. The oldest child is three now. Yesterday, in the freezing house, his mother had to bathe him with water hardly made tepid over a camping stove. He cried and shivered, cold and afraid. The woman next door wanted to hold him in her arms and hug him tight, but she didn’t dare, she told me, because of her own children. “They might have told me, ‘Put him down; he’s dirty and he stinks!’”
No doubt, people who cut off gas and electricity don’t think about such things. They don’t think about freezing children, about desperate mothers, unable to warm up their children, unable to give their husbands a hearty welcome home, after a hard day spent looking for work.
This winter, some of the families I know had their water cut off too. I remember Mrs.Page telling us, “When we had no heat or electricity, we made do. But the day they cut off our water, it finished us. We couldn’t sink any lower than that.”
Can we imagine parents’ anxiety, when there is no water to bathe the children, to flush the toilet, or to cook with? “But we can’t live on sandwiches!” burst out one dismayed mother. Without any water, how can you do the dishes, wash clothes, or tidy up the house? And above all, how can you keep yourself clean and feel good from head to foot?
In a nearby housing project, another woman charmed by a spell of mild weather at the end of January, said to me then, “Now that spring’s here, the living will be easier.” She really believed that springtime had come. She wanted it so badly. The poorest always believe that tomorrow will be different. Just like them, I believe it too.