Helen Kirk: September 2015
My brother calls me the nomad of the family. You see for all he is 10 years my senior he has only ever lived in 4 houses whereas I have had 16 different homes in 7 different towns. That means that I have packed up my possessions and moved 15 times in total. The first time I don't remember as I was a small child. The next four moves were all into student accommodation so they were filled with the excitement of growing independence. Two more were as a young single woman house-sharing with others and the next two were as a newly-wed.
However the final six moves all involved moving with children and that is a very different matter. When it was just me it was no more than an inconvenience; I didn't have much to move. But when the children came along it could be stressful and chaotic; a huge unsettling upheaval for everyone. Of course it is more than just packing and moving possessions. It is about starting again in an unknown area; not quite knowing what the house is really like; wondering if the neighbours will be OK; settling the boys into new schools and all of us having to make new friendships. We have been lucky. Each move has been due to a new job and each time we have had somewhere to live and thankfully we have never had to learn a new language (apart from perhaps the year in Plymouth!) Always we have received a welcome and found a home. To find a home is such a fundamental human need; to feel safe is what we crave for our family.
As you can see I am fairly well qualified in the stressful nature of moving so I can only assume that you must be really desperate to leave your home and country, with only the things you can carry and put your family on a boat for a treacherous sea crossing or in the back of a lorry to travel for hours without the basics of water & air. Sadly for such people there is more hope in a perilous and life threatening journey than in staying at home.
I'm sure we have all been disturbed by the images of human misery that have filled the newspapers and our TV screens in recent weeks: mothers holding babies above the water; fathers desperately clinging to children and the body of a small boy washed up on a beach. It is utterly heart-breaking. Yet for me what is as disturbing is the language we use to describe the situation. 'We do not have room for 'them'; 'they' should stay in their own country; they are a 'swarm' like an infestation of insects. Such language separates and dehumanises. It stops us having to think of the needs of real people, people just like us. They are simply human beings wanting the best for themselves and their families — such that they must make terrible and often tragic decisions.
Jesus was once asked what was the greatest commandment he replied 'Love God and love your neighbour as yourself'; he then went onto to tell a story in which a man was left in desperate need and the person who helped him, who was his neighbour, was a foreigner, of a different culture and religion. What was his point? That our neighbours are never 'just like us' they are whoever is in need.
So what might it mean for us to be good neighbours? Perhaps we need to support the aid agencies who are coping with the largest migration of people since the Second World War. Perhaps we might feel moved to write to our MP to urge more action. Perhaps we will help fill the convoys of lorries that are setting off to Calais with humanitarian aid?
Whatever we do we cannot just 'walk on by on the other side of the road'. Each and every one of us has an understanding of the word 'home'. For most of us it is a place of security and welcome. Something we often take for granted. As we watch the news and see the story develop, as we hear statistics quoted and political rhetoric espoused, may we always remember that the story is about people, people just like us, longing for home.
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