Today on twitter the hashtag #XmasListin3Words has been trending all day. Now I don’t like Xmas at all as an abbreviation but that’s been the tag. It’s very easy for me to give my Christmas list in three words;
“Gift of Life”
The very best Christmas present for us at all right now would be from William’s new donor.
Wills was just four when he had his first transplant and one of the most moving moments was a month later, at Christmas, when he said to me;
“What was the best present I had this year that Father Christmas didn’t bring?”
I wondered and wondered what it could be and listed things others had given him and then he answered;
“My new tummy!” I was amazed at his thinking at just four because it straight from him, no one had talked to him about it in that way. I looked at him this evening, when he was flat out asleep by six despite it being a half school day, his stoma pouring out and looking a bit grey around the eyes and I thought to myself that it would be so wonderful if we had the same special Christmas gift again this year.
Yesterday, I shared here a piece I wrote for Cosmopolitan Magazine a few years ago about human trafficking. It was absolutely amazing to meet and interview Oxana. Thankfully, very few of us will ever experience the catalogue of absolute horrors that she has been through. The fact that she is still here and breathing is a testament to the incredible strength we can find deep within us when we really need it. If you missed the blog please do hope back a day and read it for yourself. If you are going through your own trials and challenges read Oxana’s story and be inspired that you can survive, you can come out the other side of the most horrendous of things.
Oxana survived in the end because she found people from the charity, Eaves For Women’s POPPY programme who rescued her, held her hand through the processes she needed to go through and helped her find herself again. I spent some time at Eaves as a journalist, learning and writing about the incredible work they do and the women they help. The team were amazing. The office was one of the most positive work places I have ever experienced. It was a real environment of (mainly) women showing authentic love and compassion for other women, feeling their pain and often becoming angry, and expressing this anger on their behalf. I spent time in the office and visited women in one of the refuges the charity provide. I was shocked to learn about the extent of human slavery and abuse that goes on in our own country, in normal homes that could be on your street.
Human slavery and trafficking is an area I’ve followed with interest ever since and I was really pleased to learn of the Global Freedom Movement inspired declaration that was signed by world faith leaders at The Vatican today. The declaration states;
We, the undersigned, are gathered here today for a historic initiative to inspire spiritual and practical action by all global faiths and people of good will everywhere to eradicate modern slavery across the world by 2020 and for all time.
In the eyes of God*, each human being is a free person, whether girl, boy, woman or man, and is destined to exist for the good of all in equality and fraternity. Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity.
We pledge ourselves here today to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored. Today we have the opportunity, awareness, wisdom, innovation and technology to achieve this human and moral imperative.
You can read more about this and who signed today here, where you can also add your own pledge and signature to the declaration.
3. Love and see loveMy guru, Amma, was among the leaders who signed the declaration to end slavery today. She was there as a representative of the Hindu faith but her speech, as always, talked about faith in general, rather than centring on her own tradition. She, once again, talked about love as the heart of all faiths and the importance of spiritual teaching in school as the centre of ‘lessons in life,’ serving to teach children how to grow up into adults who love others. She explained that this kind of education should go hand in hand with the ‘lessons in living,’ that train children for professions and trades. Amma talked about how love heals and about showing love and compassion to victims and perpetrators of slavery as the only way of ending it. She said we need to recognise the love of the divine in our own hearts and in others, whoever they may be. If we learn to live like that, we can begin to heal.
This reminded me of a story I came across in the time I worked as a psychology manager in the prison service. I worked for the London Area Office, managing psychological services across all the London jails. I was sent to Feltham Young Offenders Institute for a week to investigate the work done on the ‘intensive care’ wing, for boys who were struggling to behave on the general wings and prepare a report and recommendations for the future. I interviewed many of the boys there, some who were still struggling and others who were improving and working towards being reintegrated with their peers on the general wings. One of these was a young man who told me about the things he had done before coming to Feltham and during his time there. He had really struggled with his behaviour and caring about the impact of his actions. This boy had completely turned his behaviour and his life around on the unit and not because of the programmes he had been taking part in. He had come down with flu there and the simple actions of the officers, one in particular, in looking after him and showing him genuine love and compassion had motivated him to change. He told me he had never had anyone care for him like that before and he wanted to change from that moment on and learn how to love and care for others like that. He said it had made him feel good and had taught him how he could make others feel good too. This is exactly the kind of thing Amma was talking about when she said we can show others love and heal hearts.
Amma travelled to Ireland following the London visit I was so lucky to have been part of. She was welcomed there by Thomas Pringle, MP in Ireland’s Government. In his welcome speech, he talked of the number of people who had received her darshan, her hugs and said;
“Amma has directly touched the lives of 33 million people around the world, passing on a message of love, respect and positive energy to each and every one of those people. If each of those 33 million people could pass on the same message in their daily lives, just by doing the simple things, making time for each other, and sharing compassion, I think we could effect a real change in the world.”
I certainly intend to do this as much as I can and be part of spreading her message of giving love to everyone and seeing love in everyone. Of all the things I heard from our religious leaders in their speeches at the declaration today, this, to me is at the heart of an approach that could work to bring about that change.