I do wonder if these days we've lost - or are certainly in danger of losing sight of - the concept of 'ENOUGH'? Well, perhaps the following will help explain what I mean.
For a good number of years now my teeth have been expertly cared for by an absolutely first class NHS dentist. But more recently he sold his practice to others who have subsequently decided to treat private patients only. As a result I've had to find another NHS dentist... a challenge which has proved an eye-opening and frustrating experience!
I began my search with practices nearest to where I live, the first of which has printed on their front window the words, 'WELCOMING NEW PATIENTS'. 'Great', I muttered to myself, 'I've surely hit the jackpot first go', ...as I confidently approached the smiling receptionist. And, 'yes' she assured me, 'we are accepting new patients'. But then to my considerable consternation and dismay, she added, '...but only private patients'.
Now sadly, I was to discover this to be by no means an isolated case. I approached a number of practices only to receive an identical response. And this got me thinking, is there really a shortage of dentists in the UK today, as we're frequently told in the media, or is it simply a shortage of dentists WILLING TO ACCEPT NHS PATIENTS? And it's probably a similar situation with other branches of the NHS. Routinely patients are waiting months and even years for pain-relieving treatment nowadays, whilst on the other hand, if they're able to have the work done privately it can be carried out in a fraction of the time.
During my social work training I read the Beveridge Report in which Liberal politician, Sir William Beveridge proposed a way of combating the 5 great social evils of the day, 'Disease', 'Squalor', 'Ignorance', 'Idleness' and 'Want'. This was accepted by the post-war Labour Government and formed the foundation of our Welfare State. It made provision for universal access to medical (and dental) treatment, irrespective of the patient's ability to pay. Yet, sadly, what I found in my quest to find an NHS dentist convinces me of just how far we've drifted from the original compassionate ethos underpinning our welfare system.
SAVOURING WHAT WE HAVE
Yet why have we allowed things to develop in this way? Now, I'm not having a go at any one profession in particular, but in checking out the average salary of an experienced NHS dentist I'm sure many of us would be left asking, politely, 'Is this not enough?' The UK today is the 6th largest economy in the world; we enjoy a far higher standard of living in comparison with many other countries and have a social welfare system said to be (at least at one time) 'the envy of the world'. And yet as a nation, are we truly content? This reminded me of something I read years ago, and yet it seems still so relevant today...
'The 'Good Life' exists only when we stop wanting a better one.
It is the condition of savouring what 'is' rather than longing for what might be. The itch for 'things', so brilliantly injected by those who make and sell them,
is in fact a virus draining the soul of contentment.'
But of course contentment doesn't come easy. We need to work at it... and yet it can be SO worthwhile. It's really something to be learned, as emphasised by the Apostle Paul...
'I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.'
In other words, I'm sure there's a point at which true contentment lies in stepping off the interminable escalator, resisting the temptation towards greed, and saying to ourselves...