Thought for the Week: Hope and inspiration

Ken Veitch reflects on hope for the future

Last summer on Embleton beach in Northumberland I was served a dessert of banana, raspberry and strawberry, topped with cream and cherries. Overhead cauliflower clouds drifted across the blue sky. Before me stretched lightly furrowed golden sand and beyond the bluey, purply, greeny sea.

The ‘dessert’, carefully created for me, was make-believe, all made from sand and served in a little bucket by my six-year-old grandson Sam, who waited expectantly while I ‘tasted’ it. Such an offering had a special feeling, in a place that always makes me feel close to God.

The writer and journalist Bel Mooney once wrote that children have no past or future; they simply enjoy the present, which few of us do. I watched Sam and his brother Joel playing in the water: carefree, splashing – surrendering to the happiness of the moment. Joel and Sam do, of course, have a future and I wonder quite often what awaits them, and all our children, in times to come. I see reports of thousands more children being forced into poverty by severe benefit cuts, and starting school disadvantaged by the closure of so many Sure Start Centres. Children are more than ever susceptible to commercial and sexual exploitation. Our most senior family court judge has highlighted the ‘disgraceful and utterly shaming lack of proper provision in this country of… services so desperately needed by the increasing numbers of children and young people [with mental health problems].’

Class sizes are increasing, with schools seeking parental donations to buy basic equipment. Most disturbingly, perhaps, the military has an increasingly high profile in schools, and is involved in seeking to persuade youngsters into joining our war machine, which is creaming off billions of pounds that could go such a long way to improving our public services and the quality of life in general.

It is easy to fall into despair. I often hear that ‘nothing I can do will make any difference’. However, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed in 1945 for his opposition to the Nazis, once wrote, in Letters and Papers from Prison, some words on the subject of optimism:

The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned. [Optimism enables us] to claim the future… and not abandon it.

Perhaps one day Sam will run a restaurant celebrated for its desserts. For now, I am always buoyed up by my grandchildren’s innocence and their love of life. Whatever the future may bring for them, I hope my grandchildren will help to shape a world of more justice and love and creativity than we seem to have at present.

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