The world is full of bad news. Trump’s policies of hate; Brexit’s divisiveness in the UK, the reduction of the rights of vulnerable women in Russia; the continuing devastation in Syria; Australia’s current refugee policy and even the unwelcoming nature of some of our parishes, have made me shocked, angry and sad.
Even alongside the excitement of moving to London with my husband of one year, travelling to many of the countries of the world with him and starting to build a new friendship base here in London’s South West, I still felt unnerved by all the issues surrounding me. To make matters worse, London’s infamous dreary weather started to make my outlook as grey as the constant grey sky above me and I became homesick for Melbourne’s seemingly endless summer days and the warmth of my family and friends back home.
This despair was taken to a whole other level when I met a group of people in a local pub in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago. After initial friendly and welcoming small talk, an imposing member of the group asked me, 'So what do you think about Trump then?'
I quickly said that I disagreed with Trump’s current policies and I was looking forward to having an engaging discussion with him and his friends with us all talking about how we can get the world into a better state. I had had similar conversations with my friends in London and my Australian friends via Skype, so I was envisioning us all eagerly debating the political, social and economic dimensions of the policies. I even had a mental image of us raising our glasses to hope of better days and then going back to normal conversation with a certain smug satisfaction.
How wrong could I have been.
As I was about to continue and say, ‘Oh! And I just can’t believe it!', he began to proudly explain his racist and misogynist views in an almost nonchalant manner, as if they were very normal and he could not fathom that anyone else could think differently to him.
‘We here in Liverpool don’t care about what happens in America! Why should we care! It doesn’t affect us. Like Trump, we don’t want any of those f***ing…’ and he went on.
I was driven almost speechless as he steamrolled over my respectful protestations with his own views which were further supported with words of encouragement from his friends.
I was explaining these experiences to one of my friends over a cup of tea (of course!) Along with the drama of the night of the pub I also, again, shared my views about the problems of the world when she, unexpectedly, gave me a poem.
‘Try to praise the mutilated world’ writes poet Adam Zagajewski in his poem of the same name.
It hit me straight to the core. Is it not amazing at how often exactly the right thing comes at exactly the right time?
As I read Zagajewski’s words it made me remember that of course the world is flawed, we are all flawed and we are always going to be. In my busy and privileged life, I have been rarely challenged with people who have the extreme opposite view to my own. It made me realise how distant I was to the reality of why so many people feel the need to have no variety or perhaps challenge to the way that they have always lived their lives. And, furthermore, in my busyness I forgot to see God in the people and values that challenged me.
Of course I am still going to get angry, shocked and upset at all of the horrendous events that are happening in our world. Indeed, my passion for social justice has only increased by these experiences. But I hope that now I will also give enough time to see all the beauty in this world. All the smiles; all the laughter; all the little kind acts that we do for one another; all the joyful celebrations with new and old friends and receiving an unexpected compliment from an unlikely acquaintance. These little moments are the moments that we need to take notice of. Because, if we don’t, then we miss something that is rare and precious.
So guess what I just did? I walked outside into our matchbox-sized courtyard and looked into the planter box to see if anything is surviving this winter. And wow, what a beautiful surprise! Tiny, multicoloured flowers have started sprouting from bulbs that must have been there from the previous tenants.
I took a moment to smile and to say thank you to God for all the wonderful things in my life. And for that moment, I did not have a worry in the world.