Holding on

The Kingdom

It’s a long way off but inside it there are
quite different things going on: Festivals at
which the poor man is king and the
consumptive is healed: mirrors in which the
blind look at themselves and love looks at
them back: and industry is for mending the
bent bones and the minds fractured by life.
It’s a long way off, but to get there takes no
time and admission is free, if you will purge
yourself of desire, and present yourself with
your need only and the simple offering of
your faith, green as a leaf.

R S Thomas
Collected Poems, 1945-1990, p233

Paris in the Spring. The excitement of the colourful markets in Jerusalem’s Old City on a sunshine filled morning. Strolling through the park in Madrid. RomCom set in New York’s Central Park. Italian ice cream – in Africa. Roman Holiday.

Astonishing art in soaring mosques. Ancient praise daily ascending the heights of Westminster Abbey. Family. Fishing boats on Galilee. The taxi driver’s peaceful kindness as he spoke of his practice of the Ramadan fast.

Friends. The compassion in the face of the young surgeon saving the life of a child. The overwhelmed returning soldier holding his 9 month old baby daughter for the first time. Thich Nhat Hanh.

The young violinist wedded to channeling unspeakable joy to the ears of her listeners. The lined face of the grouchy old poet who penned visions of glory. The little girl who’s over the moon with a hand knitted jumper made specially for her.

Desmond Tutu’s giggle. The Dalai Lama’s smile. Her Majesty the Queen’s personal faith and steadfastness. A little gathering in the rain – helping to stack sand bags to redirect floodwater. Pope Francis offering a ride and a smile in the Pope-mobile and – beaming – bearing a lamb upon his shoulders.

Parisian café life. Blue skies. Snowy Alps. Venice. Persian poetry. Bedtime stories. Cherry blossom. Hot chocolate. The hand in hand. The lifeboat crew. Home. #porteouverte. The gentle border guard.

Birdsong. Jesus teaching on a hillside. Those who will willingly sit through night and day and months and years with the bewildered and the disorientated and those who have lost all hope and weep and grieve and mourn.

River running. Books. Freedom of Speech. Rolling lavender fields. Shepherds. The birth of a calf, a foal or a baby giraffe. The stars in the bright sky. Space on earth and space in the heavens. The grin on the face of a border terrier. Some folks offering – and others queuing for – “free hugs” in the Place de la République in Paris.

Ice Skating outside the Natural History Museum. Nicola Sturgeon’s warmth and openness on Desert Island Discs. Cycling with a warm wind at my back – especially near the coast. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

These are just a few of my favourite things – and people.

And when, ashen-faced, as it seems we so often are, before what can feel like world-overwhelming heartbreak, we must bring these favourite things to mind – with and for the heartbroken, for the refugee, for the sick, the terrified, the dying and the dead, as much as for we ourselves. We must bring these favourite things to mind and be thankful for them. And for the (healed and Ultimate) Kingdom.

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