Empathy is essential to us, as a human race.

It’s that time of year, when anticipation and joy is in the air. We enjoy the comfort of our cozy, festive homes and the tempting abundance of treats in every shop we visit. I honestly love Christmas and all the memories I have of Christmas are warm and happy. As a follower of Christ, I have always had this sense of celebration; not just for the gifts or prospect of a new year.

Jesus is my new beginning every day, He is the one that keeps me above water when the world is pulling me under.

Reflecting on the actual story of Christmas, I have thought about the journey Mary and Joseph made. For an expectant Mother and anxious Father, it would have been intense to say the least. They travelled strong by their faith in Gods plan and purpose. It’s the story we hear about in the Nativity plays and on the TV. But when we read further, we are reminded that the long journeys didn’t end there. After the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to seek refuge from the threat and persecution stemming from King Herod.

Matthew 2:13

Reflecting on this part of the story with deeper thought and realism, I have feelings of despair of the unknown, pain for the those families whose sons were killed and an overwhelming sense of confusion. I believe the only way Mary, Joseph and the mourning families could see tomorrow after experiencing the murderous corruption, physically and mentally is by accepting that life is more than what is happening here, now.

In comparison, I think of the millions of individuals and families that flee from their homes, seeking refuge and the warmth of knowing their children are safe from the danger they faced. I want to speak carefully as I write this, as my understanding of the experiences people seeking refuge is so on the surface. All I know is that the level of pain and distress is in a category of its own. We hear stories of refugees in the news, always painted with a political stance. Politics has this dangerous way of minimizing the real experiences, it launches a load of questions and information our way that leaves us feeling overwhelmed by what is right and wrong.

This is where empathy is essential to us as a human race. If we first listen to story with empathy, we begin to find ourselves on the freezing cold journey, approaching a foreign land. We begin to think in a way which questions “what next?”, we stand in a pair of shoes that can only go forward.

Reading the story of Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt with baby Jesus, we know the details, we see the bigger picture. In that moment though, the reassurance Mary and Joseph had was their faith in God and the plans that had gone before them. They would have had very human experiences, very human pains and very human fears, but this was the only way forward for them as a family, a scorching fire was chasing them and they had to flee.

Having a faith is a bridge that opens a path into tomorrow, into a tomorrow better than today. Even if we don’t see that straight away, one day we will reflect and see the resilience, wisdom and character that our experiences has gifted us with. Faith varies all around, however you see yours just know that it is as essential as the blood flowing around our bodies. It is what breathes us into our future.

Listen to your body & mind

Have you ever heard the phrase “sleep when you die”? What do you think of when you hear it?

As a counsellor by trade and an all round sensitive soul; words impact me greatly. I recall being taught in university that every word and phrase is valuable in the process of communication and therapy. I tapped into this as I truly believe that the words we choose or our subconscious chooses to use, expresses more about what’s being said. This effected my practice and relationships in a way that was both a curse and a cure.

If you didn’t already know, I’m Welsh by heritage. In Wales it’s quite common to see individuals speaking with their hands and using phrases that although spoken in English are a bit trivial and sound like a joke. “I’ll be there now, in a minute” as amusing as it sounds, when determining an ETA this makes complete sense to me. Not quite now, not quite in a minute but very soon!

Wherever you come from, we can agree that communication from destination to destination and from one relationship to another. Being understood is the difference between our personal opinions and emotions being valued and undervalued. As I’ve blogged about before, our personal stories are to be treasured and not to be thrown out into the open sea to be caught by any wave passing by. The same goes for the reverse of this. If we catch on to any opinion, trend or emotion that flies our way, we open ourselves up to be deeply affected by things that hold no benefit or positive outcome both ways.

In real time, imagine being a parent in the school yard who socially attracts many individuals! You are unoffcially the friend, the Mum, the teacher assistant, the governor, the mediator and the taxi! How exhausting. Your capacity to offer quality understanding and support to each of these roles fluctuate, people will feel let down and you will burn out emotionally. The same goes for the content we expose ourselves too on a daily basis.

The phrase “sleep when you die” to me is a backwards motivation to get stuff done. It bothered me for a while, with 2 kids at the time and one on the way, all I wanted to do was sleep! Even now with 3 young children, sleep in my constant goal. I had this pressure taunting me though, that people were achieving more with their time, while I was cleaning up after kids and craving sleep.

These type of phrases communicate to a very impressionable generation, that you are going to miss out if you don’t chase that money or promotion! In reality, in order to create a smooth path of wellbeing and professional success you will need more than lack of sleep.

By surrounding yourself with stimulation for your mind, whether this is reading a new book or blog! Creating a daily space to find peace through meditation and prayer, eating well and most importantly listening to your bodies call to rest. We may not be able to control all the trends or communication we come in contact with, but how we react is down to each of us. We may have to feel the pressure of fire phrases before we understand if it’s relevant or not, but the next time we know to do a U turn and seek positivity in our interactions with this world.

“The power is an illusion” – AOC

I want to build up an image for you…

There is a school, with on average two hundred and fifty students, teachers, teaching assistants, caretakers, administration staff and of course the headteacher and deputy.

Imagine then, this school has a number of naturally excelling students who need little support. Then you’ve got children who need a bit more support and children who need consistent support. What happens when the headteacher says “I want only the students who excel to receive rewards for their work.” they have instantly created as divide among the school. Does this now mean that the children who require more support will be less motivated and lack confidence? Quite possibly. Now imagine, the teaching assistants resources have been limited, not only can’t they recommend rewards but they are being directed to split their time with other students who do not need support, in order to back up the students who are excelling.

In reality, a school like this would be called out to be dysfunctional, unequal and in the most extreme terms, corrupt. Just by writing this last sentence, my mind has sparked images of so many establishments, countries and governments.

We may have already heard of the corruption within African countries, today I want to talk about a beautiful country called the Democratic Republic of Congo. This country represents every kind of energy, the energy of love, suffering, culture, physical and mental. Once you have experienced this culture, you see what true patriotism is. My extended family are from DRC and when I say extended, I now have family in France, Belgium, Africa, the UK and USA. My children will have so many opportunities to travel and experience the diversity of their heritage.

How does a country with so much energy be exploited by the rest of the world? DRC is one of the richest countries in the world, it powers this laptop, it powers the phone you are reading this on and it has beautiful treasures that we can only imagine. The depth of the land, the vast ground holding so much potential that just needs to be left alone by the unwanted help. Surely we all understand that it is easy to look like a do gooder if we change the narrative of what’s actually going on and turn it into a more pleasing story for the westerners. I can’t count the amount of time I’ve spent fiercly discussing with my husband the changes that need to be made. I said so many time, the DRC government is corrupt, it’s got no solid foundation because of the past… this is the narrative I’ve been told by so many appeal shows on my UK TV.

Yes, many men, women and children are suffering world wide as a consequence of dysfunctional governments but do we stop there and accept that as the overriding reason? Obviously the information of what is really going on will not be handed over to us by Google that simply. Neither would visiting the areas where the landscape is being torn apart give us much more than a devastating insight into the hard work and unfit working conditions and pay the workers receive. This isn’t some conspiracy, it’s a reality that is ongoing. As the AOC said “the power is an illusion” until we start looking further into the roots and breaking that down, the face value of these international stories will continue to deceive us.

There is no quick fix for any of this, but I believe we have to start by educating ourselves, emerging our families into other cultures, understanding the ways of our neighbours and most importantly making sure the youngest members of society know that their voice has power. Their skills and character have the potential to impact communities and comfortable governments who lack definition.

Right to education, right to life

With many parents across the world currently homeschooling their children, we are exposed to the great responsibility of teachers; this is to provide a high standard of education to our children and young people. While touching base with my daughters school teacher over the phone, the delight of speaking to a fellow adult had never been so prominent! I’d been waiting for this moment, the moment to confess… that in fact, my homeschooling knees had given way by day 4. Like a deer in the head lights I was stunned by the fantastic array of activities that were to be completed, all were socially, ethically and academically sound. But wait, where are the books full of mathematics and handwriting practice that would occupy my inquisitive six year old while I sat with heavy eyes, bagfuls of postnatal anxiety and a luke warm cup of tea. This was never going to work.
After my brief confession, I covered for my daughter as her teacher complimented how enthusiastic she was to engage and learn. Well, let’s just say she is fully engaged with a bunch of cheesy Netflix series and has learnt an extremely irritating game called the ‘pause challenge’. The truth is, my beautifully unique daughter is indeed enthusiastic but her Mother is not. Thankfully I was reminded by her school teacher that “they won’t remember how much work they did or why they did it, but the positive memories we make with them will be something they keep forever”. However corny that may sound, it’s completely spot on and should be the motto for parents worldwide. So thank you Mrs Google, Miss YouTube and Mr Netflix, you have yet again saved this millennial Mums arse. While this experience is both challenging and frustrating for all of us, we can’t underestimate the importance of the education we can give our children. By sending them to school, extra curriculum clubs and by creating a safe home environment we can be sure that they will have a positive start in life.
Among my rumbles about having to home school, I’ve become so much more aware of how fortunate we are in the UK.

We are able to offer many opportunities and options when it comes to our children’s (even our own) education and social life. I recently watched a TED talk by human rights protector Rabiaa El Garani, who described her story of investigating the atrocious crimes committed by ISIS against the Yazidis, a community of people based in Northern Iraq.
The way she described the experience of these people was vivid; although I don’t believe words could ever describe the devastation these communities face. Delving deeper into this, the individuals who are involved have no control over their destiny, education is just a dream. As a Mother in one of these communities the unimaginable emotions and anger that must weigh over them would bring any one to their knees. Children are born into corruption, where having options in education, career prospects and life choices are extremely limited/non existent.
Every child has the right to an education and in many countries it is a given that no one falls through the net, but not everywhere. The mental and physical pain parents and children go through just to fight for their communities and lives is relentless. So, before we question our governments “when can the kids go back to school?” why not treasure the endless supply of educational resources we have, this is more than just books; it’s the people around us and the opportunities that are there for the taking; opportunities to speak up and be heard. Let’s be zealous about what good may come of this pandemic, whether it’s by personal growth, a new found love for community spirit or just recognising the importance of being able to connect with others. Pray for those communities around the world, where freedom is being wiped out. Pray that they never give up the fire that keeps them pushing forward every day. Finally, let’s be consistent in reflecting on the fact that uncertainty or certainty of peril is an everyday feeling for these beautiful individuals. Whatever ‘pray’ means to you, we must unify in thought and action to hold up the weak; a true international community.

Our words may be small and may even be over looked but someone somewhere is listening.

Photo by Valeriia Miller