I don’t know how many readers of this column still have vivid memories of the ghastly tsunami that rightly pre-occupied the whole world a few years back. My own memories are still pretty vivid, partly as a result of the fact they are connected with events right here in West Dorset.
When the tsunami struck people on the other side of the world, one of the West Dorset schools immediately launched a terrific fund to help out the victims and, in particular, to provide much-needed assistance to a school that had been destroyed by the tsunami.
I remember being very struck at the time by the extent to which the pupils in that school had entered into the spirit of the event and had become seriously engaged in trying to help out people who, though in dire need, were as far removed from their own experience as one could get.
Of course, adults are also capable of engaging with the stress of people far from home – and many thousands of grown-ups all over Britain stepped up to the plate in one way or another, with millions more contributing some cash. But there was something particularly poignant about the way the children in this case entered into the project – perhaps partly because childhood is a time in our lives when we are less thoroughly pre-occupied with the actual than we later become and the imagination therefore plays a larger role in our lives.
All of this came flooding back to me just last week when I found myself talking to pupils at one of the middle schools in Dorchester about what is going on in South Kordofan.
It is clear that, rather than regarding these terrible events as a distant distraction (as many adults are inevitably inclined to do) a large number of children were fully engaged. It makes one optimistic about the prospects for world citizenship.