This week sees the last few days before many of our children and young people return to school and colleges after the Summer holidays. For some, like little children and their parents/guardians, it is an exciting and new step and an important milestone in their life’s journey as they start out on their first day of school. They might be anxious or upset as life as they know it has changed and they sometimes feel separated. Yet, the opportunities available to them in our country today are immense. Many others are returning to work after a well deserved break. Whereas a year ago we were having to make “bubbles” in schools, workplaces and homes, we are now hearing of “burst bubbles” and a return of some normality. It has been a learning curve for everyone as we have adapted to new norms and a new way of educating and learning. We hope that all our students and staff have a safe return to schools and colleges in the next week and hope that they will be able to partake in many new learning opportunities, receive the support that they need and make many new friends.
The photograph was taken from the top of Muckish mountain in Donegal last week. It shows the long and winding road in Muckish Gap that many people travelled years ago back in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century. Many walked, often in bare foot, from parts of North West Donegal on their way to Derry to get a boat to either Scotland, England, or even as far away as America and Australia. They were leaving home in the search of a better life to escape extreme poverty and famine. Their family would walk with them to see them off and would pass along this road crossing over a bridge named the Bridge of Tears, known locally as ‘Droichead na nDeor’. It was here that they said their goodbyes in tears, knowing that they might never see their loved ones again as they were moving so far away and the journey then was so long, with poor conditions on the ships. Because of this their departure was seen like a death.
This photograph made me think of how far we have progressed and how blessed we are in Ireland today whilst we witness the extreme suffering of our fellow human beings in countries throughout the world. I particularly think of those in Madagascar as they are experiencing the worst drought in 40 years and as a result there is malnutrition, no harvest, employment or income. Thoughts go also to those suffering in the Afghanistan war and in Haiti following the massive earthquake. For them although Covid-19 is an issue, bubbles and social distancing are of little concern to them as they fight for their lives. For some they cannot experience or enjoy either starting or going back to school as the military may have occupied the schools. For them they cannot live in safety. For them this road in life is particularly winding from the life that they once knew but sadly, often like with our ancestors, the road of life for them is not long enough and often cut short. We must all do what we can even if in a small way to help our fellow humans who are suffering around the world. As we start this new week we should give thanks for all our blessings. Our thoughts, concerns and prayers are with those who are finding the road difficult, long and winding at this time. Stay hopeful and pray. Have a safe and blessed week.
Mary Dunnion is Trust Nurse for the Irish Pilgrimage Trust and a Lecturer in the Department of Nursing, Letterkenny Institute of Technology.
Image, Muckish Mountain, Donegal, ©Mary Dunnion