Thursday, October 13, 2016

Citizens of the world

You know what? I think I'm getting old. I was about to write and tell you how hectic it's been around here, and then lead into the post, but before I started writing, I scrolled down the blog and found several mentions of life being hectic. I don't have a paid job and it's just normal life with a few extra things thrown in. So what's going on?

Perhaps I'll ban the word "hectic" from the blog. Last week was my first week back from abroad, and on Saturday we had an event that I've been helping to plan since August. Bakewell churches were hosting a group of women and children asylum seekers and refugees on a day trip to Bakewell. We had activities planned for them inside and out, two home-made meals, and transport to and from Sheffield, where they've been given accommodation (our nearest city.) On the Thursday night before, I got very little sleep, worrying about if it would all go to plan, and generally fretting - would they have a nice time? would they? would they?

On Saturday morning I was so nervous I was thinking of ringing up my co-planners and saying I was ill and couldn't come, sending Dave to deliver the food I'd cooked. I am a friendly person, but talking to people I don't know, starting from scratch, is hard.

But I went, and I was the one to wait on the  main road to greet the visitors as they stepped down from the small coach we'd chartered. The volunteer from Sheffield was the first to step off the bus with a warm smile, a hearty thank you and an outstretched hand, and she was followed by our visitors - all smiling. My heart lifted, and I relaxed. It was going to be OK.

It was more than OK. As soon as the children got to the Quaker Meeting House they launched into the games and activities we had waiting for them. And the women accepted hot drinks and wanted to talk and get to know us, just as we wanted to get to know them. Everyone in Bakewell who took part enjoyed the day, and felt privileged to meet our visitors, to hear their stories, and to make a connection.

I have hesitated to tell you about it lest you think I was parading my do-goodery. But it's not, and it wasn't. All of those planning the event have been touched and are touched every night by the news of people fleeing the horrors of war, starvation and persecution. What could we do to help besides collecting clothes to send and giving money?

I am sure you feel the same, and I'm telling you about it in the hope it will inspire you to think about what you might offer.

This initiative, which we plan to repeat, is a very small local practical thing. It won't change the world, and it won't help anyone to start a new life. But it is a sign of friendship and warmth and support, and offers a day away from a daily life of hardship, living in basic accommodation on scant resources. (Asylum seekers are not allowed to work and get £5 a day to live on). In post-Brexit times of racism, jingoism and insular thinking, it is a way to show our common humanity. It was a wonderful, memorable day, and now we are torn between inviting our new friends back, and inviting new ones on a future visit. 


Anonymous said...

I love hearing your stories retold on your blog. It makes them so much more powerful. Xoxo LRH

Sue Hepworth said...

That's nice.
I suppose that's why I am a writer?

marmee said...

Gosh sue this is indeed powerful. I think because it is a description of the way life should be.. meeting one another with kindness even when we are strangers in a strange land...when we do we find we know that stranger