It seems to me that these times are filled with a lot of people feeling very hopeless.
I know there have been many times in the past where where it is hard to feel how I could possibly have an impact on the horrors we are seeing every day in the news. In Syria for example, the pain runs so deep it is hard to understand how I can help and what difference I can make.
But suddenly with this new wave of attacks on the UK and in Europe I feel strongly empowered.
Maybe we have just made a huge leap towards peace and we have not even seen it.
When I look at all these individual attackers, most of them are from here and have familiar frames of reference to me. They are not some remote soldiers I have no understanding of the lifestyle of, they shop in the same shops as I do, hear the same music, navigate the same public transport systems. Our lives are intrinsically connected.
When I try and think about how my personal responses to things matter, or being more loving or more respectful might help refugees in boats or people in Barcelona, I feel pretty helpless. But then I started to think about the fact that the guy who carried out the attack on Westminster Bridge was from Tunbridge Wells. There must be hundreds of people who have stood next to him at Tesco’s, skipped the queue in front of him for petrol, or pushed past him on a train… hundreds of little every day incidents where thousands of us cross paths every day. Suddenly our responsibility to make respectful, positive, peaceful connections with everyone we meet seems a lot more applicable to a larger picture of world peace. Suddenly my actions start to make more sense in terms of our individual responsibility.
We have a really important mission to be able to propagate an idea of respect and compassion in these turbulent times. The idea that each person is worthy of respect is a bold notion. Especially when someone has just pissed you off or barged into territory you feel is rightfully yours. But would those men have attacked people on London Bridge if they had been feeling loved and respected? I don’t believe you do that kind of thing if you feel like you feel people care what you think and about what you do. And I absolutely do not think they could have done that kind of thing if they thought people cared about them.
It is crucial now more than ever to show overt respect to all those whose lives we share a space and time with. The guy who walked into the elevator before waiting for people to leave, the woman who is shouting too loudly on her phone on the bus, that family member who is it just too damn long to make an effort with…
We have the chance and the opportunity to impart hope and to change the course of these hellish times we are navigating. But it is going to take each of us standing up and choosing love and respect over fear and retaliation.
I know what I chose. Choose love.