A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article entitled, I Like Muhself, and made reference to the song by the same name performed by Lil Rick. Through that article, I sought to encourage us to aim for and adopt a healthy self-image. Ultimately, a healthy self-image revolves around the theme of self-respect and involves the process of recognizing that we are unique and precious individuals with tremendous value.
This week, inspired by my love for country and a solid piece of social commentary, I am referencing yet another classic – De Country En Well by Stedson Red Plastic Bag Wiltshire.
In this song, Red Plastic Bag skilfully and masterfully utilizes the imagery of a sick human body to present several arguments about the state of our country at that point in time. This line sums up the whole piece beautifully: “Clearly, you can see, this country ailing badly, now you can tell – the country en well.” What a genius! I too wish to address the state of our health as a nation, but I wish to do so from a more literal point of view.
Allow me to provide some context. One morning this week, I sat in a public service vehicle on my way to town. It was around 8:30 a.m. and as we journeyed along, the vehicle stopped to pick up an adult and a child. At first there was nothing unusual about this occurrence but as the child boarded the vehicle and took a seat in front of me, I noticed that she began to open a plastic bag in her hand and commenced snacking on its contents. This little girl appeared no older than six years old and I must tell you that, in my opinion, she was carrying a bit more weight than one would think a child of that age should carry.
At a point in time, she turned her head in my direction and I caught a glimpse of the ‘meal’ – it was a donut glazed with thick, chocolate icing. I must admit that I was saddened by the sight of a child consuming such, as one of her first meals of the day, but what shocked me more was what happened next. The little girl proceeded to turn the bag inside out and, with great focus, she thoroughly cleaned the bag of any remnants of that donut and the icing it carried.
This immediately reminded me that Barbados has been branded as the ‘Amputation Capital of the World’. Not a title that one should want to earn, but an unfortunate reality that we face as a country. We have been informed on numerous occasions, through both internal and external sources, that the number of cases of non-communicable diseases (with diabetes featuring quite prominently) has and continues to rise in our fair island. These types of health issues are generally classified as ‘lifestyle illnesses’ as they are, in large part, caused or exacerbated by what we consume and what we do or don’t do.
It is clear that we have a growing problem with our physical health and it must be addressed if we wish to reduce the volume of complications arising from these illnesses and thereby reduce the fiscal impact upon our Government expenditures as a result of treating them.
It doesn’t stop there though. I wish to suggest that we also need to take a closer and more compassionate look at the mental health of our people. I am not a doctor and I have no numbers to quote to you, but as a passionate observer of my people and our society, I can confidently say that we must provide greater assistance to those among us who display or are afflicted by mental health issues. We know those who are under the care of our brilliant team at the psychiatric hospital, but what about the teenage boy or girl in our neighbourhood who is battling depression and suicidal thoughts? What about the man, our co-worker, who is hearing or seeing things but feels embarrassed to say something about it to friends or family out of fear of being labelled as ‘going mad’?
We need to create an environment within our society where persons experiencing any such internal challenges feel empowered to get the help they need and deserve from empathetic and highly-skilled members of ‘Team Barbados’. We must have each other’s back as ‘today for me, but tomorrow for you’.
Finally, we can’t examine the health of our nation without touching our spiritual health. Indeed, we live in an age where there are many options out there for religious pursuit and each one of us has a right to choose in what or in whom we wish to believe.
Regardless of these individual decisions it is my belief that spirituality should cause us to endeavour to be better human beings. As a matter of fact, the Bible in 1 John 4:20 makes this statement: “If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen.” Love for one another is one of the greatest expressions of spirituality. When we can love, care for, lift and protect each other, whether stranger or friend, I believe that we are truly a spiritual people. So, in our various and individual pursuits at reaching our spiritual ‘goal’, let us ensure that we are stopping along the way to lend a helping hand to those who need us right here and right now.
Let’s check the state of our heath as a nation and put in the efforts needed to make our country and our people healthier and better. This is leadership!