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A Journey of Sadness and of Hope

Isn’t this a wonderful picture? It was entered into our Wellbeing Competition by Isaac Turner, but somehow it failed to arrive. Thanks to Isaac’s form tutor, Mr Walker for pursuing what had happened to it and to Isaac for giving his permission to use it here. I’m so glad it arrived in the end!

Isn’t it a glorious image of the benefits of lockdown? Although we have struggled, most of us will have had moments of joy – moments of deeper connection with family or friends, moments of leisure or relaxation such as we haven’t experienced for years, moments outside in the extraordinary Spring sunshine or moments of sheer, unadulterated fun!

I am reminded of an old hymn, ‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’. Whether or not we have a faith, these words might have some resonance for us:

‘Mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,

Trust for our trembling and hope for our fear’.

I am sure there will have been times of tears for many of us too – tears of loss, sadness, anger, frustration, despair – when we have longed to turn the clock back or wake up to a different world, rather than feeling like we are stuck in ‘Groundhog Day’. Jobs, businesses, relationships, people – all may have been lost – and these are very weighty losses.

On a socially distanced walk recently, a friend told me a beautiful story that had been read at her mother’s funeral in Germany. Forgive me if it’s a bit lost in translation! This is my version of a story told to me in English but heard in German!

There was once a traveller, journeying along a hard road, hindered by rocks and stones and ruts. In the ditch at the side of the road, the traveller suddenly noticed a heap of grey material - some discarded old rags perhaps. But the heap seemed to be moving. Puzzled, the traveller drew closer and heard a low moaning noise. It wasn’t just a heap of old rags! Someone was lying there, barely able to stir.

‘What has happened to you?’ cried the traveller, in consternation. ‘Why are you lying here at the side of the road?’

The person – if it was a person - shifted and let out an anguished moan. ‘No one will let me walk with them,’ it said. ‘Everyone thrusts me aside and pushes me away. So I can only lie here, completely useless.’

‘What is your name?’ asked the traveller, leaning in close.

‘My name is Sadness,’ groaned the heap.

‘I will travel with you,’ said the traveller, holding out a hand. ‘Come, you can walk with me. I won’t push you away – there is space at my side.’

Slowly a thin hand emerged from the pile of old rags and tentatively took the traveller’s. Then a worn, tired face emerged.

Carefully, with great tenderness and respect, the traveller helped Sadness to get up. Together they set off along the road.

‘Tell me,’ said Sadness, after a short while. ‘Who are you that you are willing to walk with me, when everyone else has pushed me aside and refused to let me come with them?’

The traveller smiled. ‘Maybe you’ve guessed my name already, Sadness. I am your faithful companion. I will always travel alongside you because my name is Hope.’

For our own wellbeing, we need to allow sadness its space. If you press your hand hard against a wall, as if you are trying to push it away, you will feel the tension in your arm, the resistance in the wall. If you simply rest your hand against the wall, allow it its space and allow yourself yours, the tension is gone. In both cases, the wall is still there. The difference is in how you feel about it.

It is the same with sadness. It won’t go away if we try to push against it. It needs to be allowed to be alongside us. But so does hope. We need to allow space for both our sadness and our hope alongside us as we continue this difficult journey.

I trust that there will be mornings of joy – and afternoons – and evenings - just as we see in the wonderful picture at the start of this blog!

May I wish you many, many hopeful days, throughout the summer.

Meg Harper