My dears, I fear this will not be a cheerful post because EBL is not in a cheerful place. I have spent the weekend thinking sad thoughts and cannot be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on this grey Monday morning. But I can be hopeful.
Last week I was away from work and posting was a step too far after my first attempt. In a way it was because I forsook you all to go out and have fun with colleagues at our Christmas dinner. We went to a new restaurant that has just opened in Leeds and tried their rather expensive cuisine. The results were mixed. If they learn and improve it will be a fantastic place; if not, they will close down soon enough. Nevertheless we had fun in a sedate and civilised way and no one was unable to function back in the office the next morning.
That is not why I am sad. That is why one reason I have joy as well.
Over the last few days I have been reading the usual Christmas appeals in the papers, and learning about things I prefer to avoid during the rest of the year. I read about child soldiers. They are children, but at the same time they are soldiers. Armed and dangerous. Scared. A scared soldier is the most dangerous of all. A scared child needs our love more than any.
On a daily basis it seems, the news reports more and more instances of child abuse scandals, and in a shocking sentence this weekend:
“The alleged presence of household names adds to the intrigue, but in a celeb-obsessed age, there is a danger that, should such names not materialise, Rocks Lane will be seen as “just another” child abuse case.”
I felt quite ill when I read that. Do you usually read about grisly horror in the paper as you munch toast or sip tea, and somehow pass by on the other side of the road? I know I do most of the time, because it is debilitating to take it all in and treat it as seriously as it deserves. That sentence got to me though. We are in a place that says the abuse of children may only be considered sufficiently newsworthy if a celebrity is involved to spice it up.
Really? It’s not about the children, it’s about the perpetrator? Only a sufficiently interesting perp validates the suffering?
I had been thinking that, if nothing else was good about him, Jimmy Saville’s misdeeds had shone a light under a nasty big rock and let us see what people have denied for a long time. Now it seems all he has done is raise the bar for what is reported.
So my week wove into the tapestry of my life. Other things happened, inconsequential to you, but the kind of small mercies that keep me going.
Then our team suffered two bereavements. On Wednesday one person lost a dearly loved grandfather who had been seriously ill for a while and whose loss was tinged with that guilty feeling of relief that he was no longer suffering. Our friend was very upset, of course, and we all shared his pain through our memories of similar experiences. We had all lost someone close at one time or another.
On Thursday the second person lost a dearly beloved grandchild to a terminal illness. The child had lived long enough to see their 12th birthday but not held out for Christmas. In fact making it to twelve was a miracle in itself. Again there is guilt in feeling relief it is over. This time none of us can understand how our friend must feel. We cannot comprehend losing a child, living as we do in our privileged, comfortable world. We think about the loss of the person, the pain of the family, but also the loss of his potential, his future family, his contribution for years to come.
My dears, I warned you it was not a happy post.
And so on to the end of the week, because time does not wait upon our sorrows. I am sure you are all aware how things turned out. We cannot understand it here in the UK. We cannot.
I am very sad today, and at the same time thankful for the examples of compassion I see around me every day. Compassion is the foundation of a life well-lived. It is our common, shared divinity, if you will. Buddhism speaks of compassion as our Buddha nature; Quakers similarly, a continent and centuries away from the Buddha, spoke and wrote of the Inner Light. If we cannot show compassion to those around us, we have no purpose.