Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A few weeks ago, I remember being a little down. Things were fine on the personal front, but a few things seemed to be happening in the world that brought over a particularly strong tidal wave of negativity. 

Gauri Lankesh, a well-known journalist and activist had been murdered outside her Bangalore home in gruesome fashion. ‘President’ Trump was threatening to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. North Korea was stepping up the war games. Everywhere I looked, the forces of darkness seemed to be gaining ground. 

At around the same time, I went with some work colleagues to volunteer for a day at the Movement Hotel, a project started by a group of not-for-profit organisations here in Amsterdam. Their plan was to create a pop-up hotel run by refugees and professionals together, on the site of a former prison. The goal was to empower asylum seekers through job training and give them an opportunity of a new beginning in the Netherlands. 

While painting walls (badly) and hearing more stories of the people involved, I had a niggling suspicion that the universe was sending me a message. Here I was, being part of a project that was helping to transform a place of sadness and negativity into one that was open, bright and hopeful- complete with pink walls. 

Fear can hold you prisoner; hope can set you free’, was the tagline of that great film, The Shawshank Redemption. Over the course of those few hours spent with some truly inspiring people, I realised this was something that I needed to tell myself more often. Every day, I could wake up and decide to stay trapped inside the Shawshank of my own mind, or I could decide to be more hopeful. And not just hopeful in a passive, lazy way, but hopeful in a get-up-and-punch-holes-into-the-darkness kind of way. 

And while it can often seem futile, in the end that beautiful verse from the Good Book puts it best. 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it'. 
I’ll take that for now.

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