Tonight I set myself one of the hardest writing tasks I’ve ever faced. And even just writing that makes me wince at my misconception of hardship.
I like to think I’m pretty good with words. I’d go so far as to say they’re my ‘thing’. But there are times when they are so woefully inadequate that they may as well not even exist.
Tonight I have been writing letters to refugees. Cards, actually. I thought that if I could maybe encapsulate my words in a whole package of hope and solidarity then maybe their inherent flimsiness would be less noticeable.
Because, honestly, what do you say?
What do you say to someone whose roof has been ripped from over them whilst you sit in the warmth and the comfort of your own four walls?
What do you say to someone whose children are struggling to survive when you have spent the evening delighting in filling an advent calendar for your own precious one?
What do you say to give someone hope when you cringe at the state of the world every time you look at the news?
In the end it was only hope that made any sense. Despite the odds stacked against humanity by fear and greed and mistrust, hope is the only thing we have to hang on to.
I fumbled through my words, and then – as I so often do – borrowed those of someone else to say what I really wanted to.
Emily Dickinson always stops me in my tracks, and this stanza is one of my very favourites.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all – “
Tomorrow I will take my cards, and my words, down to the sorting centre in Brixham where volunteers are making sense of the bags and bags of donations ready to send them to Lesvos, where hopefully they might provide some respite for refugees. The plan is that each box on the palette we send will contain a message from someone here, someone who is living in safety and in disbelief that our world can treat other humans as badly as we do.
Each palette, each box, each card, will hardly make a dent in the ocean of need: I wrote ten messages tonight; approximately 400,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Lesvos so far this year.
But they might just bring some hope. And whilst we’re busy working out what else to do, there are worse things to leave in our stead.
I’ve put together some resources to help teachers tackle the refugee crisis in the classroom. Please help yourself if you think you can use them!
If you would like to find out more about how you can help, please visit the Humanity Has No Borders website. Thank you.