I recently spent a day helping kids make dragonflies out of pipe cleaners. Well, actually I was engaging their attention while my colleagues chatted up their parents abut a big project we are developing in The Aire Rivers Trust.
One little girl approached the table quietly and announced “I am no good at making things”. “Let’s see, you can soon learn” I said and we set to slowly crafting a pink and purple beast with green eyes and white legs, the smile slowly forming on her face as she started to recognise where this bit of twisting and turning was leading to. We finished in a few minutes and the smile on her face could have it up Myrtle Park as she ran off shouting to her mum “Look what I have made!”. As I re-live the story, I feel the tears in the corner of my eyes as I recognise that this could have been a truly transitional moment for that little girl.
In recent months I have recognised that I tend to ‘tear up’ much more readily that I have done so in the past. The little girl, someone’s personal loss, recognition of some especially beautiful scene or experience…. I wondered what might be behind this – a suddenly discovered empathy, the older me no longer feeling a need to ‘hold it in’, or what? Was this a long-buried tendency or some newly-acquired trait?
Then a couple of days ago I was at Tatton Park Flower Show and came across a garden dedicated to the memory of the millions killed in World War 1. The garden was centred around a steel cutout representing a soldier, gun in hand, head in repose – they are available from There But Not There. The little garden stopped me in my steps – and those tears happened.
I was reminded of our trip to Northern France and Belgium a couple of years ago when we visited a series of key sites from WW1 and we did our best to vicariously experience the horrors of those millions who did so without choice. I said at the time that the only way I could deal with the emotion, as at Auschwitz, was to bury it.
It was that trip, that devastating experience that cracked the floodgates. The gates that ‘us men’ have been taught for years to keep closed – “Big boys don’t cry”.
YES THEY SHOULD AND DO.