In the story, Kitty (a girl of perhaps eight) has recently lost her Gran to old age and illness. She wished upon a star one night and yet her Gran still died. She tells her mum this, who says:
"Listen, love, I decided a long time ago that the stars are out of reach. It's not their fault and it's not my fault - no more than it's your fault that your wish didn't come true. All it means is you can't help things happening - do you understand?"But Kitty doesn't accept this as the final word. She spends all her pocket money on glow-in-the-dark stars, puts them into her parents' bedroom and waits for nightfall. They are left speechless with wonder. Kitty explains:
"I wanted to prove something to Mum. She said the stars are out of reach, but I've proved they aren't. You can touch these stars, Mum - and they're all for our gran."It was then that my tears flowed. Both my parents, and my wife's, are still alive, but they're ageing and showing some signs of poor health, and I know that at some point in the future I'll have conversations with my children like Kitty with her mum.
But there's more, and that leads me to feel as much hopeful as sorrowful. 2016 has been a really rubbish year for the world. We have had a horrible bombing in Brussels, the massacre in the gay nightclub in Orlando, a British MP murdered while serving her constituents. The UK population has been lied to and manipulated for months, served up xenophobic and small-minded propaganda and has taken the irrevocable decision to withdraw from the European Union. We are smaller and poorer for it, morally and economically. The United States refuses to pass gun legislation to curb their many massacres, and has at least a chance of electing a racist demagogue as president. Refugees continue to stream out of Syria and Iraq in a desperate hope of finding safety somewhere in the world, and doors are closed in their face. Programmes of austerity, devised by western governments to appease the bankers who created an economic mess with their greed and incontinent gambling, increasingly cripple our public services and damage so many lives. And climate change gets worse and worse.
It seems that hope is a long way off, that the stars are far out of reach.
But I refuse to believe it. I refuse to believe that the stars are out of reach.
I refuse to believe that terrorists, whether motivated by extremist religion, prejudice, politics or hate, can succeed.
I refuse to believe that murder and violence can triumph over love and justice.
I refuse to believe that those who hate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for who they are will stop those people living out who they are.
I refuse to believe that xenophobia and insularity are the right routes for the British people.
I refuse to believe that demagogues and extremist politicians will win out over the voices of reason and tolerance.
I refuse to believe that refugees don't have a place where they can be welcomed.
I refuse to believe that austerity is the answer to economic troubles.
I refuse to believe that the human spirit will be cast down, or trodden underfoot.
I refuse to believe that the oppressed of the world are lost.
Instead I believe in hope. I believe in love. I believe in tolerance, and justice, and human decency. I believe in a God who has promised to cast down the mighty from their thrones, and send the rich away empty-handed; and who calls us to love the strangers, widows and orphans in our midst.
In the words of the Iona Community, I affirm God's goodness at the heart of humanity, planted more deeply than all that is wrong.
I believe that good will triumph over evil. I believe in a dawn after the darkness.
I believe that the stars are not out of reach.