The morning after last year’s general election, I sat on the sofa with my son and cuddled him close. For the first time since he was born in 2007 I felt genuine fear about what his future would hold.
And then Brexit happened. And once again it was his opportunities that had been limited. His options that were narrowed.
Meanwhile, things started getting worse. Hysteria over Britain welcoming 14 children from the hellish refugee camps in France. Gary Lineker being vilified for showing compassion towards people who’d experienced things we can’t ever imagine. The benefit cap. The reintroduction of grammar schools. The third runway at Heathrow. Divisive, nasty, uncaring, backwards-looking changes to our society that will pit neighbour against neighbour in streets and cities across Britain, and in countries across the world.
Things looked grim enough before the news that Donald Trump had won the US Presidential election, and for a while last week all I wanted to do was curl up into a ball and give up. It’s a horrible feeling to emerge from a Facebook bubble where most of your friends think the same way as you do, and discover the rest of the country – and most of America, too – is thinking differently.
But then I read a poem someone had posted on Twitter. A Philip Larkin poem called The Mower, which ends like this:
“…we should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.”
And it reminded me of some very good advice I once had that when things are going wrong in your own life, you should do something to help someone else. It sounds counter-intuitive but it works. It opens you up, puts you out there, stops you dwelling on things you can’t change and forces you to do something. Anything. And helping someone else can never be negative. Ever.
It struck me that this approach is something we should all be doing – right now. In my opinion, things are going backwards in post-Brexit Britain. Suddenly those British values we’re supposed to be so proud of are all about being insular and inward-looking and only helping people who are like us. Trump’s America could easily go the same way. In fact, his transition team is already showing us what his Presidency will be like. So the way I see it is that now more than ever we should be careful of each other. Things are going wrong but this is absolutely the time to help someone else. We mustn’t hunker down, wrap our arms round ourselves, hide under the duvet and wait for things to change, tempting as that seems. We need to go out there and be kind to each other. We have to fight this division and hate with love and hope and with consideration. Like Michelle Obama said: “When they go low, we go high.” Being nice will always pay off because, like I tell my kids, the goodies always win in the end. Love always trumps hate. We just have to try.
Kerry is an author and journalist with a passion for storytelling.