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Thought for the Day: be canny, be cautious, yet be gracious and trusting

Whenever possible I listen to the Thought for the Day on Radio 4. This one struck me for its useful balancing of trust and caution, one of the most vital aspects of solo travel in distant lands.

‘You must be,’ said Jesus, ‘as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves’. A poetic way of saying be canny, be cautious, be savvy yet in equal measure be gracious, trusting, open to the world and to the possibility that others genuinely share your dreams and aspirations.

How this blend of trust and caution plays out in our individual lives will vary hugely but we all work with it in the context of the public roles that we occupy as well as in our personal relationships. If we tend always to assume the worst of others we find ourselves withdrawing into a sad isolation or inviting conflict where it could have been avoided. If we are continually naive about the motives of those around us we may often get hurt and find our peace and wellbeing compromised.

It’s a hard and risky process but it is written into the very nature of our human experience. In a global context, if we do not involve ourselves in what might be considered to be someone else’s mess, they may not have the resources to build a better life for themselves and their children. But if we do get involved there’s the risk that others and their families will bear a tremendous cost. No-one knows that more than the bereaved families – who are so much in our hearts and minds – of those seven soldiers killed in as many days. This much is at stake and this is how fragile the equilibrium can be. The only thing that we have no choice about is that such choices must continue to be made.

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