JUST LIKE YOU my home woke up to last night’s news of the nail bomb attack at a concert in Manchester (UK). At the time of writing this there are 22 people known to have been killed – the youngest an eight year old girl, 59 people were injured.
At times like this I feel so shocked that my response is ‘I have no words’ or ‘words don’t go far enough’ – but this time I do have words – LOTS OF THEM.
IN the few short hours since I first found about IT I’ve experienced anger, frustration, disbelief, sadness, a single tear, tingling, heat, cold, helplessness and the reality that NONE of us are helpless in this situation unless we choose to be.
And this isn’t a pollyanna attitude of looking through rose tinted glasses – quickly I moved into appreciation, admiration, love, tenderness and sheer gratitude for THOSE AMAZING people who got out of bed and went to help offering people ‘a warm room to sit in or a cup of tea’, for those people who offered a safe warm body to hug, a place to charge a phone or get cleaned up. THESE are the people that we want to focus our attention on – there are MORE of these people in the world EVERY SINGLE day than the behaviour of the ones that we are identifying as ‘bad’ and ‘evil’.
This is the same as the photo I shared yesterday asking ‘is the glass half full or half empty,’ remember that the glass is always REFILLABLE, and that’s my point here today.
What do we do when children and young teenagers are murdered? We want to point the finger, attribute blame. Some of us want to move straight to forgiveness and meditation and that’s an empowering choice too. There are only two emotions: love and fear. EVERTHING is an extension of one of them.
Our first personal thought this morning was – in a few years Tilly (my stepdaughter) will want to go to concerts just like this. How do Hanson and I protect her, and teach her to look after herself in the world?
Nailbombs are not personal – there is no longer a magic formula about keeping your phone and wallet safe, not getting separated from your friends, to knowing where your exit points are, and growing up to not drinking too much or keeping your hand over your drink. These children would have been walking out of the gig to be met by parents and carers.
They weren’t picked out for their vulnerable eyes or unconfident gait. They weren’t picked out because their mum or dad was three minutes late to pick them up and they were easy prey. They would have been energised, laughing, emotional at seeing someone they admire on stage, excited to have grown up enough to go to a gig…
How do we protect them when they are indiscriminately murdered?
We could start by recognising that last night’s bomber, he or she, lost their life too. I don’t mean in the seconds the bomb exploded – I mean in the run up to choosing to go there last night and detonate.
Whoever that person was lost their life throughout their life – they were not born THIS way.
Were they bullied? Were they singled out for being different? Were they kept away from socialising? Did they fall behind with schoolwork? Did they bully? Did they attack or fight before this? Were they loved? Did they love? Did they live a totally normal life to the outside world
Our first reaction is to want to disconnect – to hibernate to stay safe, to lock up our children and hold them close.
I say hold them close, love them with all you’ve got and remember that the ‘lost ones’ become lost because we turn a blind eye to them. We need MORE connection, NOT less. We need to be able to look people in the eye and SEE them, to smile, to open doors, to offer them our place in the queue when they have less items, to point out the empty car parking spaces in busy car parks, to indicate to the boy racer and the little old dear to pull out in front sometimes. We need to suspend our condemnation and find ways to support and include and connect.
I WILL NOT CHOOSE HELPLESSNESS AS A RESPONSE, YOU DON’T HAVE TO EITHER.
I’m choosing this as another opportunity to talk to the little people in our lives about NOT shunning the kids who don’t have the sparkly trainers or the fidget spinners, to not deciding they ‘hate’ another child because she ‘tells lies’ or ate the last sweet, to not excluding another little girl because ‘their mummy doesn’t like her mummy and says she’s too posh or not posh enough’.
They say it takes a village to raise a family – I say YOU AND I NEED TO REMEMBER WE ARE THAT VILLAGE.
Who knows, last night’s concert could have passed by without us knowing a thing about it if someone, just someone like you or me, had chosen to give the bomber in their younger years more hugs, a pat on the back, some attention, some praise, some support to make better choices, to choose a different direction. Maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t be writing this post at all and these children and young people wouldn’t have lost their lives.
IS that too simplistic? I don’t believe it is. We are shaped by our daily experiences. Just one thing can make a difference; imagine what a trail of better experiences can do.
That bomber is someone’s child – a mother, father, brother or sister somewhere will be weeping wondering what happened and how their son or daughter has suddenly become a villain the world over (except in the eyes of whoever else might have been involved in this attack). The ‘family’ will be wondering what went wrong and if they could have anything to stop it and save their child.
The DISCONNECT we want to enforce when these murderous scenes greet us IS the very disconnect that brings us here.
If your child is glued to youtube and you don’t know why stop punishing and confiscating and find out WHY, WHAT are they watching, why is that interesting to them? How can they develop that interest in a healthier way? What need are they meeting by watching it? How can you use it to connect, not divide?
If your child is stealing from you – why? What is stopping them asking you for the money or the thing they are taking? Why do they see you as separate enough from them and someone they can steal from? How do you help them make a better choice? When your child is freaking out and abusive and obnoxious and in with the wrong crowd – why is that? Why are they so afraid to show you who they are?
How do we keep the lines of communication OPEN so that they know we love them and it’s safe for them to show us who they are too?
In my twenties I worked as a radio journalist in Scotland. I listened to HOURS and HOURS and HOURS of the September 11th coverage in my earphones. It was in my head all night and all day whether I was asleep or awake.
I heard the tears, the sobbing, the hatred, the love, the revenge warriors and the forgiveness seekers. I still remember the woman who sobbed that she had just put on her lipstick and turned her cheek to her husband when we went to kiss her on his way out the door. He lost his life that day.
September 11th is ONE of the pivotal moments in my life where I realised that as a news reporter I’d have been sacked if I’d been anywhere near the Twin Towers.
I don’t believe my gut would have allowed me to go and interview wounded and traumatised people about the crisis that was unfolding. I believe I’d have been dripfeeding water to the ones on the pavements, hugging them, listening to them, leading them to safety. I don’t see myself as a nurse or an emergency worker or some kind of perfect being either but I knew when all of that was unfolding on the newswires that I was in the wrong place and there was more for me to do than report on what people saw, and for me to bring bad news to your homes.
Journalism has changed a lot – there are many forces for good if you dig deep enough – and it’s one of those forces that decided to show these people – read this.
THESE PEOPLE didn’t batten down their hatches and shake their heads – they got OUT THERE with their hearts wide open and said how can I help you? Let me help you now.
I want to remember these people, I admire these people… do you?
I watched the interview of Olivia’s mum on Good Morning Britain where news anchor Susanna Reid was on the verge of tears and I felt every ounce of her emotion as her questions became more and more closed as she fought down the mother in her. I’ve been on the questioning end of the microphone listening to distraught parents talk about their missing and murdered children. It can make you hard or it can make you soft enough to feel life and care enough to do something about it. And I felt the emotion from Olivia’s mum: Olivia who until yesterday was an unheard of teenager, and today has become a household name for all the wrong reasons (praying she turns up safe and well too).
Today I am sending love and strength to everyone grieving loss of life or innocence.
Please remember, we are the village – and we are not here to fight, we are here to pull together.