I was listening to a patient this morning talking about how useless she feels just lying in bed all day without anything to do, feeling guilty that everyone is looking after her, being so kind, and that she can't help anyone in return.
I was reminded of the stories of Thomas the Tank Engine originally by the Revd W Audry that my children like so much both in books and on the TV. The greatest (in fact, only) praise that the Fat Controller can give, and which makes an engine so happy, is "Very Useful Engine". Engines that are not useful are scrapped or sent away or, in one distressing story, bricked up in a tunnel.
This is a pernicious doctrine and it pains me as much to read the stories to my children as it does hearing it come out of the mouth of a dear, sick woman. There is nothing wrong with being useful, but it is not what human (or any other) beings are for. What all great spirituality teaches is that we are for love, and this is a trick that the Fat Controller, along with all whose highest good is Economic Growth and those who wish to provide our children schooling that will fit them for work, just do not get.
I barely get it myself