sitting in the train carriage for the most part alone, I was joined by a couple, girl and boy, travelling for a day shopping in a nearby city. I was plugged into my headphones and as such fairly invisible to them and pretty much everyone else.They were young, late teens, early twenties, she was smartly dressed with a pretty scarf over her jacket, he took his coat off and sat in a designer t shirt, they chatted and at times embraced, she snuggling into his chest as he placed his arm around her. They made me think about when I might have been her, in a time when life was so very straightforward, when I had no idea of what the world really could offer to me.
That girl, no not the one on the train, the one I used to be is still here. You would be pushed to recognise me, with my long, Yoke Ono type dark hair, my size twenty eight waist Levis and my tie dye tops, I looked very different to what I see in the mirror today. Yet inside I think I am pretty much the same, a bit wiser, a bit tougher, but not much different.
I have always had a passion for fighting for the right thing. Brought up by strong women and a socialist father, I was given the tools to understand responsibility, to be able to recognise right from wrong and to want to right the wrongs wherever I saw them. I was the teenager in the seventies, arguing with a store manager, asking him to remove the ‘girls toys and boys toys’ labels from the shelves. Even then I knew that boys should also learn to iron and hoover, and that neither of those items are actually toys.
Later I found myself in listening to Dylan, to Joni Mitchell and to John Lennon. Giving Peace a Chance sounded like a good plan to me. Still does actually. In Greenpeace I was shouting from the rooftops about nuclear testing by France in the South Pacific, neither places I had ever been to, but it was important, the world needed looking after, from saving whales to Rainbow Warrior I was there. If it is important it needs saying, and if it needs changing then it needs challenging. Rocking against racism, Coal not Dole, Reclaiming the Night, Women’s Right to Chose, Don’t attack Iraq, you name it I have protested it, written about it, shouted about it and actually changed stuff. I was once given a t shirt with the logo ‘I want to change the world’ across the front. I wore it with pride as it seemed to sum me up.
Forty years on, with the benefit of hindsight I can see that I did in fact change the world. In many ways, but probably not how I expected.
Firstly I had four children, this was definitely not on my to do list when I was the girl on the train, and yet this is quite simply the best thing I ever did. Each of those children, all very different, have grown into adults who are kind, open hearted and resilient. So the world is different for having them in it. Add to that a feisty almost five year old Granddaughter, who takes no prisoners and already knows her power. The world is changing.
I have also been able to help and support others on this journey we call living, I have worked with others to inspire and mobilised people to do small things which together became a big thing. Our work with the Hummingbirds literally saved lives daily. The world changed.
My work with young people now, in my fourth decade, has allowed me to help many through the tricky turbulent times of adolescence. I know this because they tell me. Grown adults, with children and families send me messages, telling me how I changed things for them, thanking me for things I have no memory of doing, it is unbelievably moving. The world changed.
This last year or so has been the most challenging of all. Going through it it seemed never ending, one disaster following another, all out of our control and I was suddenly unable to change anything. Tired, anxious, sad and mad, as I tried to find a path through new waters. Stormy seas all around, we were tossed from one bad place to another with seldom a moment of calm. Heads down, we battled through. Each time the waters cleared we would rejoice, then look ahead and see the dark clouds forming once again. Yet, we are still here, battered, bruised and incredibly tired, but still here. Lessons learned along the way will stay with me forever What is the important stuff? How strong can we be? Who are the good souls, the ones who threw us life jackets, answered our distress calls and most of all the ones who jumped into our boat and took up the oars when we had no more energy to give. These people changed my world.
So back on the train, I am observing this young couple and I find myself hoping they know love and that they laugh out loud at every available opportunity. I hope they are kind, to each other and to themselves. For kindness changes everything for the better.