I have always been aware of how fortunate I am, how lucky I was to be born into the family I was, in the country I was, to have the education I have and have had the opportunities in my life. I have grown up in a country where I never feared for my safety, I could ride my bike around as a child, spend time with my friends and go were I wanted when I wanted.
I have had a couple of holidays over the last few months which have reminded me of this in huge amounts. In October, I had an eye opening few days in Northern Ireland with my parents. And more recently, two weeks in Kenya.
Northern Ireland taught me so much. I still have a lot to learn about The Troubles and will continue to do so as my interest was sparked by the huge variety of people that we met when we were there. In my mind, the troubles were in the past, but there are still very strong currents of what happened in different areas around the country and within some people. For some of the people we met, The Troubles are in the past and they want nothing more than to move on and have people feel welcome in their country. Others have a very ‘us and them’ attitude about things. What surprised me was the peace wall in Belfast. I was entirely oblivious to the fact that they still close the gates at night to keep the two sides separate. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to grow up in such a divided community, where corruption and death is a given. For a lot of people there, healing has begun and is wanted, for others though there is so much pain and hurt.
My time in Kenya, mainly in Nairobi was to visit a very dear friend of mine. What stuck with me from there is the extremes in wealth. One part of the population live behind locked gates with 24 hour security to let them come and go as they please, whilst keeping out who they don’t want there.
Then literally around the corner from those places are slums. Thousands of people living in homes made out of discarded sheet metal, no plumbing or electricity. The taxi drivers check that the windows are up and the doors locked as they drive through here. It is a life I cannot imagine living, I have no experience of what they live on a daily basis. And it is all just because of where we were born.
I have been closely following the March for our Lives in the USA over the weekend, an issue that hits close to home. As a teacher I have had my students ask what would happen if someone got into our school with a gun, and I an thankful that I can reassure them that because of the gun laws in the UK it is not a situation we need to be concerned about. I could just as easily chosen to move to the US to work and be in a very different situation. No child should have to fear for their lives just because they go to school. And this is in one of the biggest superpowers in the world. I wonder what it will take.
We do not choose where we are born or the circumstances we are born into. But we can make sure we are not blind to to world around us. We can do what we can to share our luck.