Committed to being kind and other things…

So, a lot has been happening.  There was the whole #Brexit debacle.  I was devastated, I sobbed when I heard the result.  I love being a Londoner, British and European. I am not going to write a whole post on my feelings around the result, because, frankly, others do it better here and here.  I wasn’t surprised.  I am friends on social media with a few people who were voting “Leave” for a variety of reasons, not all of them (praise the Lord) immigration related.  I realised that there was a big division in our country and that some people had researched this and come to the conclusion that to leave the EU would, they thought, be better for farmers, the countryside and themselves.  I also realised that some people had done precisely no research and were blaming the EU for a whole host of problems, including “immigrants taking our jobs”.  Excellent.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am not going to go into the rights and wrongs (according to me) of these views.  What I will say, and what I have already said on my own Facebook page is that we are all entitled to our political opinions and we all need to be kind to others, including on the internet.  Calling someone “dumb/thick/lefty idiot” or telling them that they “need to get over it, it’s happened” is oversimplifying the issue and is unfair when we clearly have a very divided country and need to focus on healing some rifts.

I have been horrified that my fears about racism being a large motivator for some people are being confirmed.  The BBC reported this week that there has been a 42% rise in hate crime in the UK compared to the same period last year.  A lot of racists seem to feel emboldened by the Referendum result and this was a particular fear of mine.  This is hugely upsetting and distressing to me.  I cannot comprehend people behaving like this to others, it is alien to me.

I have therefore decided to do my bit by being kind.  I start up conversations with people who are different to me where I can, I smile at immigrants a lot, I have started frequenting my local corner shop and Polski Sklep more in an effort to show these valued members of our communities that they are welcome.  I probably look a bit weird. It feels a bit weird sometimes but, really WHO CARES?! I would encourage everyone to do this.  These are small things, but they are done with love and I hope they make a difference.

Further to my last post I am committed to being careful about what I “like”, share and post on social media.  I always consider if I need to say anything, or if others more knowledgeable than me can do the talking.

In an effort not to become completely depressed about the state of the world and to make myself feel more centred, I have also been doing other things (alongside praying, obvs):

Reading

I bought myself some new books after a self imposed “book buying ban” in November when I realised I had two shelves of unread books and approximately 8 unread kindle books!  Whoops!  Having read a lot since then I decided that I could treat myself, reading helps keep me sane.

May reads on the left, June reads on the right.  Don’t judge me for “Billy and Me”, it was needed after the EU referendum result, and was actually alright!  Best read of May?  It’s a tie between “Everyday Sexism” and “The day I met Jesus”, both profoundly feminist books, what’s not to love?

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Healthy eating and exercise?

Fallen off the wagon a bit here, but I have rediscovered a love for yoga.  I need to get back on board with my BBG workouts again, I’ve lost a bit of motivation after my bridesmaid moment passed!

Thoughts about my future and career 

Always a lot of thoughts.  I attended a wonderful vocations course (the first of its kind) through the church and for the last five weeks Wednesdays have been my favourite night of the week.  I am so glad I did it, I feel so much calmer about the future and my calling.  It was great to discuss things with a group of strangers (bar one person) and learn from their wisdom and experience.  I found it enlightening.  That sounds like a big word but I really did.  I discovered more about myself, the way I learn and approach things and about how to listen to God.  I still don’t really have all of the answers but I definitely have more clarity which is refreshing, particularly in a time when everything else seems so uncertain.

Socialising

I have been seeing lovely friends for good conversation, wine, food and fun, and I am always grateful for their time, especially those who have babies and whose time is precious.

Watching

Re Watching Doctor Who from Series One (the new one with Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor).  That’s right.

Finishing off “The Wire” we’re on the final series and it’s past its best.

Gardening

I love my vegetable patch and my little herb garden. It is so satisfying watching things grow. My lettuces are my particular pride – insane!

I try to be organic and use the companion planting technique to reduce pests – this means planting crops together which assist so nasturtiums in with the runner beans are supposed to prevent aphids. Unfortunately, slug pellets seem to be the only thing working on those particular pests!

Things I am carrying forward into coming weeks:

  1. I’ve purchased a new Bible Study plan “Open your Bible” from “She Reads Truth” whose App I have used before, and I am looking forward to getting started.
  2. More Yoga.
  3. More reading.
  4. Bullet journaling.  I am still not 100% clear on what this is, but I want in!

I hope those of you that are feeling uncertain and a bit unanchored feel less so soon.

LOVE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On Harper Lee

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I was very sad to hear about the passing of Harper Lee. Disproportionately so; after all this was an 89 year old woman who I didn’t know and had never met and she had had a “good innings” as the saying goes.

Harper Lee wrote one of my literary loves “To Kill a Mocking Bird” published in 1960, winning the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1961 and then: nothing. She effectively lived as a recluse before publishing “Go Set a Watchman” in 2015.

I first read “TKMB” when I was 13, year 9 English Literature. I instantly loved it; I have re-read it countless times since, I watched the Oscar winning 1962 film adaptation laughing at the vision of Scout dressed as the ham for the pageant.  The story: the unfairness of it all, narrated through children’s eyes, children who do not see these things, these differences that adult’s create. Tom Robinson an innocent man, accused of a crime he was incapable of committing, defended by Atticus and still convicted, because he was black and his accuser a white woman. Then murdered in prison.

“Go Set a Watchman” was only published in July, I had pre ordered it, and devoured it. Now Scout is a woman she can see the flaws in her father’s character, someone she had placed on a pedestal as an example of good; he has prejudices, and shockingly to Scout, he believes in segregation. The title for the book comes from the book of Isiah (21:6):

“For thus the Lord said to me “Go, post a lookout, let him announce what he sees. When he sees riders, horseman in pairs, riders on donkeys, riders on camels, let him listen diligently, very diligently.

Isiah is saying that we must have a watcher for dangers, for when we stray from the path of goodness – our conscience, and we should listen to it.

Harper Lee wrote “GSAW” first; but the publishers wanted to hear more about her childhood so she wrote TKMB. Surprisingly to me a lot of people seemed to overlook the fact the Tom Robinson was convicted and later murdered. Atticus was a hero. I don’t think “GSAW” necessarily takes away from that. We just realise that Atticus is not, as many made him out to be, including his daughter: a perfect man. Atticus has prejudices and character flaws.

I have white privilege. I don’t have the same experiences as someone who is black or brown, or Asian, living in a predominantly white society, and they don’t have the same experiences as me. We are all a product of our environments and our experiences.

I am the daughter of two teachers, they are open people, they are well travelled and are interested in other cultures, they have friends of different backgrounds and races to themselves and always taught my sisters and me that you judge a person by what they do and what they say, not how they say it or the colour of their skin or the religion they follow. They also taught me that in every group of people there will be some “good eggs” and some “bad eggs” and that you do not judge a whole on the actions or words of a few.

As a consequence, I knew that racism was a reality, for a while I went to school in Lewisham, and Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racially motivated attack down the road in Eltham: that tragedy led to the biggest investigation into institutional racism within the Police in the UK and lots of changes were made, that case made me want to study law. However, equally, because of my privilege in the way that I grew up I have never experienced racism. Sexism, sure. But not racism.

For example, I didn’t know that anti-Semitism was still a “thing” until I went to University and dated a Jewish boy – I thought we had sorted that out in the World War II – surely no one would still be stupid enough to hate Jews? Wrong.

I think Harper Lee waited to publish “GSAW” to teach us that we still need to post our watchmen, that we have a long way to go. Look at our world: Police in the UK may not be shooting unarmed black kids on the regular, but instances of racially motivated attacks on Muslims are on the rise, anti-immigrant and Muslim sentiment is expressed in mainstream media and there has been a rise in the support for far right parties like UKIP, despite the fact that we are facing the biggest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to fear, or ignorance (in the least judgmental sense of the word), and oftentimes: both. If people don’t know any people of colour, or any Muslims, or any Jews, or anyone who is in anyway different to themselves, then it seems to be quite easy to categorise them as “different”; it’s easy to forget about them, they are “not the same”, and so it doesn’t matter. It’s a “Them vs. Us” mentality and it’s completely contrary to how we were made to live.

Essentially, we all have prejudices, nobody is perfect, and it is sometimes hard to recognise those in ourselves. We all judge people, whether we like to admit it or not, by the shoes they wear, the way they speak or behave. I have a particularly hard time with those that vote UKIP or express views that come out of fear even though I know that I am sometimes guilty of that (the fear. Definitely not the UKIP voting). Those judgments and prejudices must be kept in check and we should not surrender to fear of difference and the unknown. As Yoda so wisely says: “fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.”

I have friends of different colours, religions and sexualities to me and to each other. I talk to my neighbours and colleagues, who are Christian, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Atheist, white, black, brown, men and women. I have contact all day every day with people who are different to me – I live in London. What I know from this is that we are fundamentally the same where it matters, in our hearts and souls: we all love our kids and our families and our friends, we all get annoyed by the trains being delayed.

I am very judge-y about judge-y people, and oftentimes that is justified and sometimes anger and strong words are needed but, quite often, they won’t get you very far. We need people, people like Harper Lee and Glennon Doyle Melton who can tell stories and who can teach change and taking a long hard look at ourselves. Glennon’s recent work with The Compassion Collective has made a few people I know feel differently about the refugee crisis. We also need the voices of more people of colour, novelists and bloggers like Austin Channing Brown and Deidra Riggs and Maya Angelou.

I hope that post Harper Lee’s death there is a treasure trove of unpublished works found, I hope that she has more gifts to give the world and more lessons to teach us. I hope, because I hate to think of the alternative: that she got scared by her success and didn’t write again. That would be a terrible waste.

I will continue to expand my reading, looking out for other writers who can talk authoritatively on these issues, who can educate me and challenge me and make me feel a little bit sad and a little bit ashamed and make me want to do better, be better and encourage others in the same way.

If anyone has any recommendations for how I can expand my world view and discover new writers (maybe some British ones!!) and as Glennon would say “put on my perspectacles”, please let me know.