Like Jo, I am a glass half-full person. It takes a lot to shake my determination to remain as optimistic as possible. Those close to me know that I always try to stay as positive as I can.
But today, four years on from Jo’s murder, I have to admit that I am struggling. If this was just because of my own personal grief, it would be one thing. What makes it even more upsetting is that it is not.
I know that I have still got a huge amount of work to do in terms of dealing with the senseless murder of my sister – a woman who was genuinely one of the kindest and least self-centred people you could hope to meet. But I sometimes feel that I can’t even begin to deal with the grieving process while there is still so much work to be done on the issues Jo cared about during her life – and indeed the issues raised by her brutal murder at the hands of a right-wing extremist and white supremacist.
As we sit here in these unprecedented circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic, I feel a sense of helplessness that is both unfamiliar and unwelcome. And I know I’m not alone in this.
I feel a real sense of responsibility to ‘do something’ with the heartbreakingly unique situation I have found myself in
I’m not an expert, I’m not an academic, and I’m not a politician. I never had any desire for people to know who I was. But I feel a real sense of responsibility to ‘do something’ with the heartbreakingly unique situation I have found myself in, and the lived experience I sadly now have. But at the moment I am struggling to know what I can do to make a difference. I have so many questions, and I’m not sure I have that many answers.
In 2020 how can we still be living in a world where people are abused, attacked and killed because of the colour of their skin? How can we still be living in a world where we are supposedly better connected than ever yet so many people feel lonely? And how can so many of us still be so reluctant or unable to listen to other people’s opinions in a civilised and respectful manner?
Jo and I were brought up to treat other people how you would wish to be treated – is that so hard? That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything or that we are all the same. Indeed, the world would be a very dull place if we were. But surely we can find a way to disagree respectfully? And a way to accept our differences and work towards finding common ground?
I’m not a ‘leftie’ or a ‘do-gooder’ and I don’t want to be labelled or put in a box. I hate generalisations and the over-simplified categorisation of human beings. It’s so sad that the non-reality of the online world and social media leads us to make snap judgements, label each other and then dismiss people based on those labels.
One of the things that has kept me going in the last few months is the many heart-warming examples of amazing people up and down the country supporting each other.
At a time when there is so much uncertainty and sadness around, along with such a huge sense of loss for so many of us – whether that is the loss of loved ones or of so many of our freedoms and human interactions – surely it is more important than ever that we pull together with compassion and kindness rather than judge each other and allow ourselves to be divided?
Indeed, one of the things that has kept me going in the last few months is the way that, despite seeing some pretty dreadful behaviour at times, we have also seen many heart-warming examples of amazing people in communities up and down the country supporting each other. And I know we will see much more of this during the fourth Great Get Together this weekend, when we invite people to stay connected and celebrate the power of community, on what would have been Jo’s birthday.
So, four years on since Jo’s murder, despite feeling a huge amount of pain, and despite my feelings of frustration at how far we have yet to progress on some of the issues she cared about, I do continue to be inspired by how, when faced with tragedy and crisis, people often also show the best of humanity. It is no doubt sadly still a ‘work in progress’ in some ways, but even in our darkest times the vast majority of people continue to demonstrate that, as my sister said, we do indeed have ‘far more in common than that which divides us.’
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