But our work for justice, peace and dignity often brings us into connection with conflict and its consequences on the lives of individuals, families, and communities.
Currently we are holding people from Palestine, Myanmar, Tigray (Ethiopia), South Sudan and North Kivu and Ituri (Democratic Republic of Congo) in our minds and hearts. Trócaire is offering support through our work with local teams and partners.
In the last 10 days we have watched the latest violence unleashed on people living in Gaza and East Jerusalem. We have watched with concern and worry for all people living there, but particularly those living in Gaza and especially our colleagues and friends.
In my experience, to know people from Gaza is to know strength, courage and pure loving kindness, the kind that buds true friendship. My life has been truly blessed by such friendships these last few years.
I have known the kindness of dinner in the home of a friend in Gaza city. I have known the joy of a walk along the seafront in the evening sun, surrounded by the chatter of friends. I have known the sense of pride and place that people have with their homes and families. Coming from a large extended Irish family where family is valued above all else, it resonates deeply with me.
But most of all I have known and been in awe of the vulnerability and resilience that six beautiful Gazan women have shared with me. We have been journeying together, anchored by our similarities and connected by our differences. Allowing our differences to exist with respect – to deepen and enrich our shared experiences, rather than divide us as difference can so often do in this world – has offered us the deepest of connections.
And so, it is with a sea of worry and anxiety, and a cloud of foreboding, that I have watched the latest violence visited upon the people of Gaza.
Having been there, I know not only the wonder of its people, but also the harshness of life under lockdown.
I know how the gates to this land are effectively locked. Imagine being trapped somewhere with nowhere to run, nowhere to seek safety, when you fear harm most.
I can picture the rooms that families are in, huddled together willing themselves to get through the night.
I can imagine the comfort that people try to give each other. And yet they face night after night of bombs falling with little space to move, with few or no options for safety.
As an empath I often live life on sensory overload, absorbing the experiences from around me, feeling everything and sometimes not knowing where other’s experiences start and end and where I and my experiences start and end. I have at times found this to be a burden because it is so easy to lose oneself in a world where there can be so much hurt and pain, so much oppression and conflict.
Over time I have come to learn positive ways of living in this world as an empath – ways that support me to give and to feel without losing myself, ways that I can expand into compassion and support. Key to this is tapping into our deepest shared common interest as humans: connectedness. In this connectedness we expand from a state of contraction, worry and fear into one of compassion and care.
Compassion requires the ability to deeply listen to each other, to move into connectedness and presence with each other, to access our generosity and flexibility, to be willing to learn and grow together. In this space understanding is born, care is born.
Holding different perspectives is a skill that we are losing in our world of polarity; in our world of right and wrong, of right and left. Let us reclaim the middle ground of care, shared concern and most of all of respect and dignity for all humans.