In the winter of 1853, a family was cosy in their stone house, built painstakingly
and with pride in the most magnificent of locations. The settlement of Suishnish looked over Loch Slapin, and up to majestic Blà Bheinn. The rounded Red Hills, formed a backdrop to the north. In a moment of time, however, this family, and thirty-one others, were forcibly and violently evicted into the snow. Their homes were then demolished, to prevent their return.
At Christmas time, we reflect on a time and place where there was no room at an inn for a young couple, awaiting the imminent birth of their son. Here in Suisnish, there would no room in their own home. They, and countless thousands throughout the Scottish highlands, were driven out…to make room for sheep, seen to be more profitable than the crofters that had worked the land for generations. Today, of course, this kind of tragic injustice is amplified a thousandfold, in places such as the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
We had hiked into the ruins of Suisnish, from Camus Malag, a rocky beach on the west coast of Skye. It was somewhere, close to here, that Bonnie Prince Charlie had come ashore, following defeat at Culloden. The defeat meant the beginning of the “clearances”.
We sat amidst the ruins, struck by how life can “turn on a dime”. One moment, a family was sheltered, warm, and cosy…and the next, they were driven out into the snow.
Life can change dramatically…in an instant. That very fact is a reminder to embrace and value each moment - even the difficult, the frustrating, and the painful ones. It isn’t always very easy. But when we wish or waste time away, as we sometimes do, we invite a source of greatest regret.
Let's hold on to every moment, embracing each one…and offering a word of thanks for them. When we do, we slow the passage of time, and deeply enrich every passing second. And then, should life ever change dramatically, we know that we have done the very best we can to cherish the most precious of life's gifts…time.
It may well be that it is the "honouring of time" in our lives that will move us to truly safeguard every precious moment in the lives of others, especially in such places as Aleppo. Together, may we have that courage, so that every "snowy night" in winter, for all people everywhere, might be peaceful, silent, and holy.