It was a normal Friday night. Mrs J and I had dinner, put Aoife to bed and sat back to watch the TV. We were flying to Ireland the next morning so we had done some packing; even as Aoife approaches her second Christmas there is no avoiding feeling like you are packing for a trek up the Amazon rather than a weekend away in Belfast; and were chatting about the days aheads.
We moved between watching Children in Need – much harder to watch since we had Aoife with lots of counting of blessing and one or two tears – and the magnificent Gogglebox. With Twitter never far away I was keeping an eye on some breaking news from Paris where there appeared to be a disturbance outside the Stade De France as France played Germany in an international friendly. Like the rest of Europe, it wasn’t long before our normal Friday night turned into a nightmare Friday.
There was something upsettingly compelling about watching the ghastly news unfolding in Paris. We were glued to the TV. The situation got worse every minute. The death toll rose and then rose again, and then again. Our horror heightened. We felt sick. Too numb to cry. Here we go again; more terrorism on our streets, more hate, more lives and families destroyed. More fear.
We had a wonderful weekend in Ireland; a happy time spent with family, including our little niece and nephew – the former enjoying her seventh birthday. There was never a more important time to be with family, hugging those we love a little closer, a chance to give thanks for all that we have. And yet Paris was never far from our thoughts. The TV, radio and internet was always in the background keeping us updated as the horror gave way to grief and the human stories of suffering and survival that inspire and despair in equal measure. At one point my Niece spotted the TV news on the screen and started to ask questions:
“What’s happening in Paris, Uncle Ben?”
“My friend said some bad people have broken into to France?”
“What does ‘on the run’ mean?
It is easy to turn the TV off and reasonably easy to bat away these questions with vague answers but harder to escape the brutal reality that those who are damaged most by this hate that consumes parts of our world are her generation – my daughter’s generation – those who go after us. They will be hurt the most if we don’t fix our broken world. Even this brief exposure to the television news and the questions it prompted stirred fear in her. She doesn’t know what is happening in Paris and doesn’t know why but she knows its not good. If we don’t reorder this world around us – as someone now much maligned once said – it will only get worse and fear will dominate hope; hate over love.
There was never a better illustration of this than the video that has gone viral this week of a young boy and his Dad crouched in the street in Paris discussing the attacks and the fears the wee man had. It is incredibly moving to see the impact on this boy of the attacks and the beauty of his Dad’s reassurance that flowers and candles will overcome guns. It is hope winning out over fear in a small but powerful way. The boy’s response, his face when he is enveloped by hope and love is a picture that will live long in the memory.
For this who are unsure about the course of action we should now take, I ask them to think about this little boy, my niece, my daughter. I ask them to think about the world they will inherit and our duty to them. Not for the first time, out of the mouths of babes come words that inspire. Our job – the grown ups – is to act – act to ensure that love and hope wins through and we live in a world where flowers and candles always overcome guns.