It's a scary old world, at times, isn't it?
I have had a number of enquiries from parents over the last few weeks, with a common theme: how to reassure their children. How do we have confidence in the words: "it will be okay"?
Children, like adults, often feel scared when they don't feel in control: when they have a different teacher in class; when a parent has to go away for a few days; when they just can't understand why "blew" and "blue" sound the same but are written differently. So, imagine how they feel when they hear the news or hear grown-ups talking about war, about refugees, about people trying to snatch children on their way home from school, about leaders of countries who seem to have no regard for the people they are supposed to be serving and caring for. It's hard to comprehend it as an adult and, to be honest, I don't have the answers. How do we know it will be okay?
My thought is this: it will be okay, because we have each other. It's a simple one, and some may think me naive, but I truly believe it.
There have always been "bad guys". In history, in films, in books. The baddies are everywhere: even the pups in Paw Patrol have to deal with the tricks of Mayor Humdinger and the Numberjacks have the Meanies to keep in check (for those unfamiliar with these programmes, consider yourself lucky!). And whilst those villains sometimes seem overwhelmingly strong or invincible, whilst the difficulties we face sometimes seem insurmountable, it doesn't last. The good guys find their strength or their power; sometimes alone, sometimes by joining forces and becoming united. And the villains? Well, they usually get their come-uppance or see the error of their ways.
And the ordinary folk become extra-ordinary as a result of the fight. Harry Potter, a seemingly ordinary boy, would surely not have become so powerful, had he not had to face Voldemort. Would Matilda have discovered her power, if her parents and Miss Trunchbull hadn't been such rotters? Consider Katniss Everdean, the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings, Tracey Beaker, Lisbeth Salander, Jo March, Atticus Finch, Xander Harris. All ordinary folk, doing their best.
And it's not just in fiction. Malala Yousafzai, a young girl from Pakistan, rose up and spoke out against the injustice she experienced. When the Taliban took control of her region, stating girls could no longer attend school, listen to music or go to the market, she spoke out. She fought for her right for education. There were attempts to silence her; she was shot at pointblank range as she boarded her school bus. She continued to fight. She survived and a UN petition was launched in her name, demanding that all children worldwide be educated. Malala is the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and a symbol in our world that one person can inspire and create change.
Ben Smith, a victim of bullying at school, decided to raise money for anti-bullying charities, by running 401 marathons in 401 consecutive days.
Ted McCaffrey, a 6 year old boy, waiting in hospital to undergo open heart surgery, wanted to watch a bit of television to help pass the time. But when he discovered the TV wasn't working, he thought about the next child who would be in that bed. He told his mum that as soon as he was out, he was going to raise money to buy a new TV to help distract other kids from their treatment. Ted raised £1,028 and was asked by Alder Hey to be a children's ambassador.
There are so many stories of real-life heroes that we can learn from: Oskar Schindler, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Jeff Parness, Emily Davison, Witold Pilecki, Bury's own "Super Josh" and his family. A dear friend of mine lost her mum recently to MND and is running to raise money for research, to fight this devastating illness.
If you look for them, you will see the heroes walking amongst us. The ones who make the news with their actions, and the "unsung" heroes. Those who campaign for human rights, those who devote their lives to caring for others. The mum who suffered from Post-Natal Depression, and set up a support group for other sufferers. The child in the playground who asks the child on their own to play. The person on the bus who gives up their seat for a pregnant lady or elderly gentleman. The nurse who, though she has a raft of paperwork to complete, takes a few extra minutes to talk to the lady, scared and afraid, in her hospital bed. The friend who knows you've had a bad day and sends a funny gif to make you laugh. The mum who says, "it will be okay" as she strokes her son's hair, desperate for him to sleep so she can get on with the jobs she needs to do, but knowing he needs to hear it, just one more time.
I don't believe we need to shout or rant, become aggressive or hateful to conquer the bad stuff. I think we need to continue to be the heroes, using the powers we have to lead the way, doing what we know to be right, treating others the way they want to be treated, and having faith in each other and ourselves. A little bit of kindness goes a long way and helps our children, and us, to believe that it will all be okay.