The exasperation of young people at the chronically broken politics of our time is as understandable as it is frustrating for them. Fr Martin Magill, in St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, drew everyone to their feet in solidarity as he forthrightly asked the pertinent question of what it takes for politicians to come together - the death of a 29-year-old woman? The shooting of Lyra McKee has rocked the complacency of those whose lack of progress towards an integrated society has allowed the sectarian divisions to be maintained so easily. At least one hopes so.
Greta Thunberg, younger still, and on her school holidays, has managed to address many of the significant political leaders in Europe, but will her appeal for a much more determined and honest drive to prevent climatic disaster bring any change? It is hard to know. Her focus on 2030 strikes me as being a good place to start. She wrote for the Guardian last Wednesday:
“Around the year 2030, we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will most likely lead to the end of our civilisation as we know it. That is, unless in that time permanent and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society have taken place….”
Deadlines appear to arrive and pass us by, but to imagine ourselves eleven years from now is an exercise in contemplating our steps to it. Age, both for ourselves and the members of our family, concentrates our thoughts nicely - well perhaps significantly might be a better word - but begs the question as to what we might be doing, or how we might be living. We cannot imagine that things in any way will just stay the same, so surely the need to take control of our months and years, as far as we are able, rather than rely on what is happening to us to determine things, must be the answer. To do this we need to listen to the young and find the place in our minds where we are still young at heart, looking forward, planning for what may not be our future, but will be crucial for others.
The rectory apple tree that is in such beautiful blossom at the moment, and will give us heaps of apples in the autumn, was planted by someone long-ago and we benefit from it. That is but a little thing in comparison with what is being raised by those in our day whose eyes are more closely than most focused on what matters in the coming decade. We have a choice as both Lyra McKee and Greta Thunberg, and many others, present to us, but the evidence of history is that people rarely change until they are forced to. Let us hope that this time sense prevails.