I had coffee with a friend today, and she told me something about her daughter's primary school that made me feel a hint of optimism about the future of this broken and pained world we live in at the moment.
She told me that her 5 year old daughter had bought home a letter from the school. It read like this:
We are about to start a new project about Journeys. We would love to hear about real life experiences. If you have moved from a different country to come and live in London, particularly if you came as a refugee or asylum seeker, we would really like you, or a family member, to share your experiences of your journey and your arrival here. This would involve either speaking to a group of children or being video recorded. We think your experiences are very valuable and would love you to share them with the children. Thank you.
In this brief, simple plea for volunteers, I heard so much - a welcome to people who may not have previously felt welcomed; an openness to listen to the stories people want, and probably need, to share about something as important as their (perhaps extremely dangerous) journey from one life to another; a recognition that those of us who have been lucky enough to be able to stay in the country of our birth, without overwhelming fear for our lives, might be able to learn from others who have not been so lucky, as well as the simple understanding that being heard and listened to is so powerful and meaningful.
The world is a wounded, troubled place at the moment, with suspicion towards those who are 'different' rife in so many communities. But requests like this, coming at a time when one could be forgiven for 'battening down the hatches' against 'outsiders', left me feeling optimistic for the future, optimistic for the world these children are growing up in, and for the children who tell - and hear - these stories, children who will ultimately shape the world of the future, and the future of the world.