I’m not happy about the fear and sadness in my country right now. I’m tired of seeing cloud after cloud of darkness come over this land.
There’s a film called ‘Wild’ where Reese Witherspoon goes off and walks a thousand miles with no experience. I relate to it more than I’d like to. Anyway, the character remembers the words her mum would say; “put yourself in the way of beauty. There’s a sunrise and a sunset everyday and I can chose to be there for them or not.” Something like that.
That’s partly what this trip was all about. Immersing myself in the beauty that I know is out there. Letting God romance me with the beauty of his creation.
But the thing I hadn’t counted on is how much I would be putting myself in the way of the kindness, goodness, generosity and soul-level beauty of the people I share my home country with.
Last night I walked into a pub with my enormous backpack, which inevitably starts a few conversations. From my table I briefly chatted with some guys at the bar about my trip and what it was in aid of. I sat journaling and eating my dinner. The men at the bar left, saying goodbye and good luck as they went. Then after they had gone, the landlord came over with a pint glass of money, saying the gentlemen had made a collection for me. I was so, so moved.
A lady named Safiya asked the landlord what that was all about, and she came over to meet me. We got chatting. She asked me where I was staying that night and I said I was planning to wild camp somewhere outside the village. She said she had a spare room. She welcomed me to stay in her home. Incidentally this was moments after my mum had sent me the weather forecast, predicting a months worth of rain to fall the next day.
During all of this, the benefit concert for Manchester was playing on the screen behind the bar.
I can’t say for certain, but I wonder if the people in the pub had thought, “what happened there is terrible. I can’t do much to help that city miles away. But I can help this person right in front of me.”
We all know the phrase, ‘it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.’ I have never seen that as clearly depicted as I did in that village pub.
I’m losing count of how many times people have shown me kindness. I’ve walked into places as a stranger, and people have chosen not to treat me like one. The overriding thing I have experienced is that people treat me how they would want to be treated; the way they would want their daughters and sisters to be treated.
People are good and kind. In a time when it’s so easy to forget that, I’m profoundly grateful to have been shown that in a way I will never forget, by the people in my own beloved country.
The poem below comes into my mind when the news makes me feel the way it makes me feel today. It’s by a friend much better with words than me.
That love is the antidote to fear rings so true that we mistake it for a cliché. But in what seems like chaos, put it to the test.