MP for Edinburgh North and Leith
Let us talk about hope
I want to mention hope. There’s plenty of bad news and plenty of reasons why people might be feeling down - you don’t have to look far to see those. People have lost loved ones, friends and neighbours; others have lost jobs and businesses. Families are worried about the future and what they’re going to do.
We all know about these things, we hear about them all the time, so I want to focus on something positive, something that might look a little like good news, something that might lighten someone’s load just a little - hope.
There’s hope all around us. Like the old myth of Pandora’s box, all the miseries might be out and about in the world but hope remains with us.
There is hope in the way that people are looking out for their neighbours, making sure they’re okay and offering to fetch them groceries or their prescription or whatever they need. Handing in soup or a stew or something you’ve baked, hands over far more than just food.
There’s hope in the people who have volunteered to help others during the pandemic by offering a helping hand to people they don’t know, people they have never met, people they probably won’t know after all of this is done.
I see a better world being built when I see the young lads helping out at the foodbank. Foodbanks shouldn’t be needed in a country as rich as this one – no one should be going hungry here - but while there is a necessity I’m going to take what good I can find there and tell you that these lads can inspire us. By giving up their time to feed others, they’re building a better community.
When the Black Lives Matter campaign raised a magnificent voice of protest recently I saw hope. It’s a decade since Simon San was murdered, two since Firsat Dag was murdered and nearly three since Stephen Lawrence was murdered, and racism still bangs its ugly rhythm round our communities. The outpouring of anger over the death of George Floyd crossed international boundaries and generated some possibility that we might see real change…
Communities are at least looking at their past and at their attitudes and some changes are already being made. There’s hope for the future there, hope we can build something better if we don’t allow it to slide back. We’ve allowed it to slide back so many times that there is a danger lying with that hope, but there is hope. We lift our eyes when we want to see further, believing in our common humanity lifts our eyes too, and it also opens them
Hope lives in our mutual respect, in our shared future and in our joint determination to build something better.
People we’ve always relied on are being recognised now - NHS staff, carers, fire-fighters, social workers, police officers, posties - workers we tend not to think about until we need them.
Others too: scientists looking for a cure and a vaccine; the bin crews and recycling staff; shop workers; food producers; teachers working online to keep kids learning; journalists trying to keep the news flowing in extraordinary circumstances – all over, we’re getting a new appreciation of our neighbours.
Maybe when this is over we’ll remember to value each other. Maybe when this is over we’ll remember we’re part of something special in these communities. Maybe when this is over we’ll keep looking out for our neighbours and reaching out to make sure they’re okay.
Maybe we’ll remember to keep supporting those who have lost more than we can ever understand; maybe we’ll remember that we’re all weak as individuals and stronger when we’re together.
Maybe when this is over we’ll be stronger as a society and we’ll take better care of that society.
I hear talk of how frightening these times are, talk about what’s gone wrong and where we should have done better - and I do my fair share of it - but it’s not all dark, there are stars shining all around us and there is hope.
When things seem desperate take a look around; there are things to be thankful for. We have a long road ahead of us and there will be hard times ahead, hurdles to clear and days when it will just seem too much. We’ll need to believe that it will get better. That it will get better.
Lean on your community and believe in your neighbour and when things are better let’s make sure we remember how we got through this together and how we’ll get through the next thing together.
Stay safe and I’ll see you on the other side.