How to hope when you wake up to hate

By Candy Gourlay

From my Facebook page

This morning I woke up to helicopters circling nearby Finsbury Park where a van had plowed into worshippers at the local mosque. Waking up to hate and despair has become a bit of a regular thing lately – terrorist attacks in Manchester, London Bridge, the Grenfell fire, war in Marawi in my native Philippines, Syria, hate, hate, hate from the either side of every divide in the Philippines, the United States, and elsewhere in the world.

Every time something bad happens, I fortify myself by looking into the upturned faces of the beautiful children I work with as an author in schools. The children always give me hope.

Yesterday my neighbours and I had a mini street party for the Great Get Together, an act of unity and defiance in the name of the MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a right-wing extremist.

But we couldn't help talking about the long shadows that had of late fallen over our society. 'These are such dark times,' I said to Myra, my elderly neighbour who lives opposite.

Myra smiled and began to tell me a story. 'I lived in China as a child, I remember crossing the Great Wall to get to the beach. I was eight years old when the Japanese invaded. They gave us our lives, but nothing else. We fled with the clothes on our backs. All the railway lines had been destroyed and so we took a bus with all its windows blown out. We were taken to an island where a group of women met us. The first thing they did was hold up some donated clothing against me, measuring me up so that they could find me something to wear.'

Myra went on to tell me about being a teenager in South Shields during the second World War, when bedtime meant queuing into a bomb shelter as German bombers raced up the River Tyne on nightly runs. She remembered sitting in a row with her family on a bench that rocked everytime a bomb landed on a nearby street.

In the morning, they all set off for school, as normal. Except her parents would send her a different route everyday, to avoid the street that had been bombed, so that she would not have to witness the horror of the night before.

Listening to these stories, strangely, gave me hope. It reminded me that I too had once lived in a dark era, the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines, which claimed our freedom and many lives with it, including members of my extended family. And I look at Myra, wise and wonderful and sparkling with life despite all the dark times she had experienced, and I think: here is hope.

We must grieve and we must struggle and we must fight against forces that bring darkness to our lives. But at the same time, dear parents, teachers and children, we can take strength from the knowledge that humanity does manage to overcome, and we can build good lives that will bring light into the shadows.

Please look out for announcements of Authors for Grenfell, an online author auction to support the survivors of the disaster (along the lines of Authors for the Philippines, Authors for Refugees) organised by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Molly Ker Hawn and Sara Bernard. Authors who want to participate can email

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