I wasn’t really listening. The TV was only on in the background. Instead, I was looking at my baby, drowsy and quiet as she snuggled in for a morning breastfeed after a disrupted night of not much sleep.
His name was Thomas. He was on the Victoria Derbyshire show. He was on a screen in the background, listening to three people in the TV studio talking about their experiences as survivors of terror attacks. I wasn’t sure who he was, or why he was on the screen behind them rather than in the studio.
But then he spoke. The host, Victoria, brought him into the conversation. He’d obviously been on the show earlier and shared his own personal account as a survivor of the Paris terror attacks at the weekend. He’d managed to escape the Bataclan alive. He’d seen awful things.
He was quiet, unassuming, obviously struggling. But the things he said were inspiring, uplifting:
We have to love one another. We can’t hate. I’m just one person, with no real power. All I can do is show love to the people around me.
It turns out he wrote something similar on his LinkedIn page the morning after the attacks. That’s obviously how journalists found him. I’m glad they found him because those words of his have been going around my head all morning.
Like many people, I’ve been at a loss as to what to say, or think, or even feel after the news first broke on Friday night. I was already processing some other very sad news that I’d been given earlier that evening, and it all just felt a bit unreal.
I woke up on Saturday morning and watched the news, read bits on the BBC website while making the girls’ breakfast. Tried to imagine how all those families were feeling that morning, while I buttered toast and made cups of tea, safe in my home with my healthy family around me.
I didn’t really know what to say, so I kept silent. What do I know about any of it? My inconsequential thoughts aren’t going to help anyone. I was going to write a blog post about something but my weedy little voice felt so stupidly trivial amongst the mass of death and chaos happening not just in Paris but all around the world, so I didn’t dare bother.
So many people dead. So many people hating. So many people killing each other. I felt sad. And I buried it, choosing to carry on as normal and nod along with other people who could express some kind of intelligent view on the whole sorry mess far more eloquently than me.
But then I saw Thomas on TV this morning. Those words of his have been in my brain for the past four hours. He talked about love and compassion. About turning your back on hate. And about how all we can really do is love those around us. And it struck a chord.
I can relate to that. I have a view on it. I agree with him, wholeheartedly.
It’s about choosing love over hate. About loving our children, choosing compassion and understanding over raised voices (something I’ve been trying more of recently). About showing love beyond our own four walls and immediate family. Taking the time to connect with the other people in our life, too. Seeing friends when we can or even just sending a text to let them know we’re thinking of them.
It’s about giving a smile to a stranger in the supermarket. Offering to help out at a community event if we’re able to. Trying to look beyond our own immediate daily existence and recognise the struggles and existence of strangers elsewhere who we may be able to help in some small way, whether that be through a donation to charity, signing a petition or getting involved with fundraising for a cause we believe in.
And it’s about loving ourselves. Protecting what time we have so there is enough to go around for everyone. Not allowing those into our life who want to sap away any positive energy we may have. Ignoring time wasters and mood hoovers. Stepping away from cruel words on the internet and petty actions that result from anger.
It’s about being kind. Being compassionate. Being good people.
Thomas is right, “Let’s love each other. Maybe the world will be a better place.”