There is a timetable and it does direct not just acts of passionate love, but also the kind of love one feels for place and for community.
I was looking at the awkward Thunderbird legs of Nigel Farage as he stood beaming in front of his big poster. He looked so thrilled, as if this poster, depicting as it did a thick queue of non-white people, were the culmination of a life’s work. I thought ad hominem thoughts, toyed with the idea of cutting and pasting his beaming, Toad-of-Toad-Hall face onto each and every refugee’s face in his big poster; and then I let those thoughts go.
I gave an assembly last week. I read a story to the entire school. It was a short story and it was an extremely funny story: the sort of story that I would only secretly approve of as it provides very little in the way of a stepping stone to more literary texts. But, bugger it, I thought: I was tired, the kids were tired, and I wanted to make us all laugh. So I did. And, in joining with the school in such a natural and timely way, something (in me and them) changed; something like a veil lifting or a shelf of land sliding into the ocean, or a wall collapsing.
The children’s laughter was rippling all around me, conducted by both the words I spoke and the silences too. My heart swelled with each burst of laughter and crashed against the smile of a particular child. She was beaming at me, non-white.
And I thought: it is her face that I will paste over the teeming, huddled and yearning, in Nigel’s big poster; her smile larger than her face and her liquid eyes. So beautiful and so welcome. Welcome.
After the assembly, throughout the following week, children would catch my eye in a way that they hadn’t done before. They would seek me out and call my name. One girl, a propos nothing, ran to me to show me her chicken pencil-top. She waved it at me and said “It’s a chicken. Look!”
And I looked. We both looked at the chicken on the end of her pencil. She waved it a bit and we both smiled.
Incrementally so, I have slipped into this community – not my own – and fallen in love: a slow and reciprocal circling that has resolved itself into two smiles reflected and a slowly nodding chicken pencil-top.
Now, I am buoyed by this community of small, crazy children: with their pencil-tops and their exuberant, random charm. It is a universal charm common to all children and possibly to all humans – if we would allow it to be so.
When all is said and done, I will probably still cut and paste Nigel Farage’s Toad-of-Toad-Hall face onto all of his big postered immigrants. I’d cuddle him and tickle him, if he’d let me; I’d broaden that smile of his and turn him gently to face that big poster of his and watch him see a wave of smiling, multi-coloured children. And his smile would grow even bigger than his face. And his eyes would water. And his arms would stretch out in readiness.
And that tide of children would break over him: a baptism of international love.
This happens all over the world, every day. It is called change and it is an ingredient of love.