It's the 20th time we have moved in five years. Hopefully it is the last for at least the next couple!! Despite the fact that we haven't lived in our own place in the UK for five and half years and have spent a considerable amount of that time overseas, we accumulated quite a lot of stuff. At least in our culture, attracting material things as you move through life, like magnets moving through iron filings, seems like a fairly universal experience. And like barnacle encrusted ships, the extra drag created from all that baggage doesn't make sailing any easier.
|Hello, is it me you're looking for?|
Packing took longer than we thought as we found more and more boxes of things we'd put in storage back in 2011. We probably spent about a month packing. Then the actual move took place over 10 days, with a tail lift van, five trailers loads, and I don't know how many car loads making the 30 minute trip to our new house each day. And since we've moved in, we've had a plumber come, a painter, a builder, a gasman, a carpet fitter, bed makers, folks from the council, and countless deliveries from local supermarkets, retailers, appliance shops and the like. It's felt like quite a logistical operation as we've all been camping on various 'beds' surrounded by boxes of every shape in various stages of unpacking. At times my emotions moved from surprise and delight at finding things I'd deemed lost, to consternation and confusion at how many things I hadn't lost, to shame and embarrassment at things I wish I had lost. I realised that my possessions included such oddities as an inflatable Millenium Falcon, old wigs, a rope ladder, a broken cricket bat, dried insects, boxes of old comics, flight logs, old number plates and a dingy. I never considered myself a hoarder, but such odds and ends could hardly be considered essential... What is even more remarkable is that they survived the first cull when we moved out of our old house! Oh, did I mention the mechanical cow?!
|Trailer number five|
|Delivery number eight|
These refugees will not have the luxury of packing up their possessions in carefully organised boxes. They will not have the time to sort out the essentials from non-essentials, to make sure important documents are kept safe, or to protect special items of emotional meaning. They will not be able to round up friends and family to help them move their belongings and help share the load and stress of the move. They will not be able to take their time over several days and weeks, sorting out utilities and logistics. They will have often fled with little more than the clothes on their backs and perhaps have given all their savings to arrange insecure transport. Their experience will be desperate and frightening.
And the one thing that stood out to me above all in our exodus to Stoke, was the difference that human kindness made: the support and aid of old friends (the moving of a piano!) but even more striking, the friendliness and generosity of new neighbours and the warmth and hospitality of folks living in our new context. This made such a difference to our outlook on life in our new home. According to the UNHCR there are approximately 65 million forcibly displaced people worldwide and about 16 million refugees. According to the Red Cross there are an estimated 117,234 refugees living in the UK (that's just 0.18% of the population), so, if you happen to meet one or find one moving into your neck of the woods, I'd urge you to entertain these strangers in our midst with real love because I guarantee it will help them feel less like refugees.