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Sweet moderation, heart of this nation

Turn on the news, and it’s been another week of change and turmoil. The sweet moderation at the heart of this nation may have deserted us, at least for now. I found myself struck with an overwhelming sense of despair. In times like these it’s easy to just give up and think why bother?

Two comments I heard this week defined the current polarisation of choice for me. Generation cynical versus generation hope. The first came from an aged white working class male who was asked whether he welcomed the appointment of Boris Johnson, albeit by less than one hundred thousand mostly aged white wealthy middle class men. His response was a resounding yes. Why? Because he looks after his own people and puts them first. I asked myself who are these people and who do we truly represent?

The second comment came in the context of my work. I currently manage a youth programme called National Citizen Service (NCS). Its core value is to encourage greater social mix, to see young people of 16 and 17 year olds meet and make new friends with people from different backgrounds. It challenges them to push themselves, find their inner potential, and strive to be the best they can be. A lot of the young people on programme come from the mainstream, but in the North East we engage with a lot on the margins. We engage with young people from troubled families, disadvantaged areas, and those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. These young people are a challenge. Simply getting them on the programme can be a struggle, but once they are there they are the ones that flourish the most. You see the difference the programme makes to their attitude and confidence.

This week some of my colleagues and partners have worked tirelessly to get some asylum seekers on programme. This has involved sourcing extra paperwork, language interpreters and extra support. It has been difficult for them, and would have been easier to just say no. Yet, they have persevered with tenacity and guile and reached a point where these young people can take part. This was not because it was of benefit to them, but because they knew the difference it would make to the lives of these young people. They have seen it. They didn’t ask themselves are these my young people people. They begin with a belief that these are all our young people, and we have a duty to represent them all. They went the extra mile for strangers.

This example of selfless sacrifice and determination was couple with a second comment that reminded me there is still hope. One of the youth groups had just completed a long, arduous ‘mountain’ walk in the lakes. The young people reached the top and collapsed with a flurry of complaints. A young asylum seeker in the group sat quietly to one side smiling and admiring the beauty of the view. The Team Leader asked if he enjoyed the walk to which he replied, ‘Yes, I have walked thousands of miles to be here.’

Imagine what it says about our country when we are able to open our arms to our fellow human beings in trouble and welcome them to the comfort and safety of our communities. Think of all those people who go the extra mile so that they can give young people who have face unspeakable suffering and harm a new chance to find themselves. Those people that ask not what is in it for themselves or their own, but for us all. They understand that it is kindness that makes us beautiful, not cynicism and suspicion. For them there is no my people only all our people.

When I drove home a song came on in the car. Many of the lyrics struck me as pertinent to these times. They reminded me, we have to keep fighting for what we believe in. Lose hope, lose passion, lose kindness, and you lose everything. Let us not lose who we truly are. Find our sweet moderate hearts once again:

‘I kept the faith and I kept voting

Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand

For theirs is a land with a wall around it And mine is a faith in my fellow man.’

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