Three questions I have struggled to answer this week:
- Why did that man kill himself and all those people?
- Are we going to be safe?
- It’s hard to not feel scared and just carry on. Will it happen again?
My heart is heavy – the world my children are growing up in is a scary place and there is no shielding them from it. And how do you explain something to your children that you don’t understand yourself? Without making it more scary – without increasing their anxiety or minimising the loss of those families in mourning?
Somewhere, as I tried to think of a way, I thought of this:
Imagine a forest – full of trees and you’re standing on the edge. It’s a forest thick and brimming with all different kinds of beautiful trees. These trees are Love, they are Life. When you are young, you stand on the edge of the forest with your family, they will show you the way.
You walk together and find the tree you want to climb. It’s dark and scary in the forest, under all the trees but you’re not alone. It’s OK. Getting up into your tree is tricky, you might feel unsure but your family, those that care for you, they show you the way.
Climbing the tree feels scary at first, but exciting. You learn as you climb; you tread carefully in some places, at points you wobble and stop. You look for reassurance. You start to stretch more, try harder, climb quicker. Sometimes you’re tired, you take a break and rest in the trees branches, then start your climb again. The more you climb the less scared you are, you feel brave and bold and confident, but you remember you always have to hold on tight. Love is hard work, but worth holding on to.
When you reach the top it’s utterly amazing. The view, the fresh air, the sounds…. You feel like maybe you are right where you are meant to be, that you want to go and climb again on your own. Because you know this tree now, you know where you can come back to. You are holding on tighter than ever at the top but feel stronger for it.
Falling from anywhere in the tree would be painful, it would hurt. But from the top, that would hurt the most. People do fall out of trees; sometimes because they slip, the don’t climb with care. Sometimes because they forget to hold on tight. Maybe they get to the top and a storm comes and blows them down. Sometimes maybe, they have been shown the wrong way to climb.
Most people who fall out of the tree, they will be hurt, maybe sad or angry. They’ll rest a while in the forest, but then remember how it felt to climb, to reach the top and once they’ve healed, they’ll find another tree and start climbing again.
In your tree, you feel safe, protected warm and loved. But in the forest there are people who are not climbing, they are not resting, they are not searching for trees. No one really understands how they got there and why they are so angry, why they are not climbing. Maybe they fell from too high, maybe they are lost, maybe no one ever showed them how to climb. They wander the forest shaking the trees, they shout, they bring axes to cut the trees down.
Sometimes they succeed. A tree will tumble down and with an almighty roar it will crash to the floor and the ground will shake, it will rumble and groan. The forest will be silent, everyone will retreat from the tree tops, they will shelter in the leaves of the trees. They, you, everyone, will be scared. When a tree is cut down, everything changes.
But that tree left roots, they cannot be destroyed as they grow deep, deep into the ground. So we in our trees have a choice. We can stay hidden or we can climb out again into the open air. We can call out to those with their axes and say ‘we are still here’ even if we don’t feel brave when we say it. Because the more we say it the braver we will feel and if we all call out from the tops of the trees, together, the noise we can make will shake the forest again and tell those with their axes we have something worth fighting for, we will not climb down, we will not give up.
Maybe we cannot erase all hate but we can always hold on tighter and love more.