I haven’t blogged for ages – I’m not sure why. Partly it is because I have been very busy with family life and writing stories and reading books, partly because there are so many things going on in the world – so many other stories, and so many so sad – that I have felt a bit tired and overwhelmed. I felt very helped last week by this blog post. It is by a Christian blogger, but its central message, about needing to take time out to eat and drink and sleep – is so true and I think will also help those who do not see themselves as religious but care deeply about loving others. Somehow we have to get the balance between helping others and not burning out – between realising that ‘no man is an island,’ as John Donne reminded us, and realising that we are not omnipotent or God. I think some of us are more likely to have delusions that we are God than others – maybe not so much from arrogance but a habit in childhood of taking on more responsibility than we should have, which has become part of our self image and, mixed up with pride and fear of letting people down, is a bit toxic. It is so easy to look at the world and despair. ANYWAY. I feel a bit better. And I think I feel more Hope now – and I would like to share why.
First of all – the blog post. I am so grateful for it. http://tanyamarlow.com/when-the-journey-is-too-much-for-you-1-kings-19/
Secondly – giving a presentation to 200 student teachers at Canterbury Christ Church University. I find it so moving and inspiring that young men and women care so much about children that they want to spend three years training so that they can spend their lives teaching them. They will make such a difference to the children they teach – they are so vitally important – literally life -changing and it was a privilege to meet them, and I am so happy they bought my books!
Thirdly. Thinking about and honouring my own vocation. I was thinking admiringly of the young teachers, and wondering about my own vocation to be a writer – and I realised that a vocation isn’t just about being called to help others – our vocation helps us too. Hopefully the trainee teachers will learn so much for themselves as they teach others. My vocation is to write – and the reason why I have this vocation is not just because (hopefully) it can help and give joy to others, but because I really need to do it and it helps and brings joy to me! For some reason I have so many thoughts and feelings that I need to write in order to cope with them – writing brings me Peace – and writing for children means that I also need to write stories with Hope in them – and finding Hope for children also finds it for me. So when I try to write the best stories I can for others to read – I am also writing them for me. When I try to tell stories full of Hope I am telling those Hope-full stories to the scared or hurting or puzzled child inside me.
When I say Hope I don’t mean sentimentality. This is the big temptation. Somehow I have to keep reminding myself that true Hope, as opposed to wishful thinking, is found and exists in the world as it is, even though the world as it is can be a desperately cruel place. As a writer I don’t want to gratuitously expose children to that cruelty, but neither do I want to sugarcoat it. I need to write stories with true Hope in them. This is a very hard job, even with a very good agent and editors , but the difficulty of it – the fact that it is really beyond my reach – paradoxically makes me feel that this really IS my vocation, and I know that it brings me great Joy. I think fundamentally, Hope exists in a suffering world alongside Faith and Love – if we keep all these three things in mind – if we realise we can’t do it on our own and we need to draw on and honour something beyond us – looking out for the realities of Love and Hope and Faith in situations and people we wouldn’t expect to meet them – then maybe we can keep going. But we will need to take breaks in order not to burn out, and look beyond ourselves – for strength.
Fourthly Friendship and Love. I have just been away for a night with my husband, and we met up with two very good friends and celebrated my dear friend’s birthday. We, as Tanya Marlow’s post says, ate and drank and slept, and it was good.
I would like to end with a difficult story which hasn’t got an ending yet, and which makes me very sad but also gives me hope because it is beautiful and full of love. I woke up thinking about this boy last night – and the only way I can cope with this story is to pray for him and look for Hope, Faith and Love and there is so much of that in this story. If you are feeling overwhelmed already then please first of all look after yourself and rest and eat and sleep. But if you feel in a good place, please watch it – and if you pray, please pray for this lovely boy and for his story to have a happy ending. This is just one story amongst millions – and the number of suffering refugees is one of the reasons why I have felt despair and been overwhelmed recently. However, the fact that this loving teenage boy exists and that this individual teenager is so brave and tender and has retained such gentleness in such adversity gives me Hope in humanity. Hope isn’t about knowing the end of a story- or it wouldn’t be Hope – and it is coupled with Faith and Love for a good reason. But I really pray that this boy refugee – who could be my son – will find safety – and that people will honour the heroic tenderness in him that he has shown towards his dog – and let them stay together. I wish I could just go over to Kos and bring them both to my home, I thank God for all the wonderful people who are trying to bring Hope into refugees’ lives.