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Gratitude, when it seems impossible

June 5, 2017

I won’t sugar coat it... it’s been a horrific few days.

 

On Friday, Trump pulled America out of the Paris Climate Agreement, spelling disaster for the environment and the future of our only planet’s well being. On Saturday, London was victim to terror attacks in the heart of the city which killed 7 innocent people and attempted to kill our city’s spirit. On Sunday, I received the news that an Italian high school friend of mine was involved in a fatal motorbike accident, his 26 year old life being cut unfathomably short, and leaving his 3 year old son without a father.

 

Since then, I’ve been in a bit of a daze, becoming more confounded and less able to articulate or even fathom what I’m feeling with each hit. Every time I attempt some absent-minded Facebook scrolling, I inevitably find myself reading about and dwelling on one of these three terrible pieces of news within the first minute. I’m finding it impossible to comprehend any of them, and more so, I’m finding it impossible to feel much hope just at the minute, when all three are situations so much bigger than my life. I feel like there is nothing I can do to make any of them better.

 

I have to try though. We all do, don’t we? The moment we stop having hope, the moment we stop trying to do good in the face of bad is kind of when it’s all over. The one thing I am amazed by each and every time something like Saturday’s attacks happen is the strength of the human spirit, of our perseverance and our compassion. It blows me away. There have been messages on the notice boards of just about every tube station in the city today to strengthen commuters, but I think this one from the immediate aftermath of March’s attack in Westminster, sums it up best:

I have so much love for this city... not only for its humour and its funny little rules you get to know when living here. Not just for its amazing history, or how iconic it is, or how colourful. Not just for the breadth of food and culture and people, but for all of these things together, and the amazing city that results from such a combination. I know unless I have been to every city in the world, I will never be able to say it’s unlike any other, but I know in my heart of hearts it is. It is an open city, a loving city (despite first appearances, if you’re stepping straight from the airport onto the tube and try standing on the left of escalators *I chuckle*) and it is a place I am deeply proud to call home.

 

I had a moment of being frightened as the attacks were happening, thinking how common attacks of this nature are becoming, thinking of how easily someone can take a life if they so feel like it. But after seeing the response and thinking about it further, this feeling was replaced by one of reassurance. As a city, London has gone through hell and back. It has been bombed and it has been burnt to the ground, but Londoners are unfaltering in their spirit, and I truly believe that will never change. The below photo was taken when I was out on a walk around parts of central London I hadn’t yet explored. This was on Saturday afternoon, a few short hours before this very same area was attacked by terrorists, little did I know it then. I have half a mind to go and change the sign to read LOVE CITY, because it really is.

When it comes to the atrocious decision of a certain President to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate agreement, I truly struggle to find words. My blood boils, I want to cry... not even for the act itself, as much as for the complete lack of foresight which I thought had finally become a thing of the past, and a thing which threatens to doom us all.

 

I won’t dwell on that hateful man – strong word, but I truly do mean it – or his decision, only on my own decisions. It’s easy to sit back and let the brunt of things like these be borne by those in positions seemingly above our own. The problems seem so much bigger than just me, and it seems like the ability to really do anything sits with others. What I am becoming increasingly aware of however, is that although responsibility should sit predominantly with those who make decisions on behalf of us all, that responsibility is often not owned in the way it needs to be. We need to be responsible in our own lives, every day, and with every decision.

 

Today is World Environment Day, and only days ago the world’s environment was subject to the ignorance, nonchalance and disrespect which could mean the end of it and in turn, us. But we can turn this around. We can at least do everything in our power to be able to look back and know that we tried.

 

In regards to the piece of news I received on Sunday, it is hard to see this in any light, from any angle, which makes it anything other than what it is: a tragedy. I don’t think I have grasped the fact of my friend’s death yet, but then... do you ever grasp the fact of death? Is that even possible? For someone to simply not be – especially in circumstances such as these, so meaningless, so premature, and so utterly nonsensical. No, I don’t think I can ever grasp that.

 

What I can do, is be grateful that I knew the boy that I did. For the moments we shared and the smiles he caused as we chatted in the school yard or, when I returned to Sicily 2 years later, as we caught up on life over my favourite gelato which he – in his never failing generosity – shouted me to.

 

I can squeeze the juice out of every second of my life knowing, in a way I didn’t fully before, that some people never get the chance. Rest in peace, lovely Gianni.

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