Jo Cox MP showed that even a life cut short can be full of purpose

17 June 2016

Jo Cox MP

The murder of MP Jo Cox yesterday was a shocking moment. Yes, we live in a world that delivers many such shocking moments, but this one made me reflect a little more about the lessons of how we, as a society, see ourselves. And also to question my own life. 

One of the things everybody was agreed upon was that Jo Cox was a passionately committed humanitarian. Before going into Parliament, she had been active in charities such as Oxfam, and had worked in countries that were supposed to be a lot more dangerous than the UK, trying to make things better for some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

It’s an interesting and sad reflection that, as a group, the people who become our MPs are routinely viewed with such disdain and contempt as they are. It’s assumed they’re all fiddling their expenses, out for everything they can get. Of course, there are some that have helped create this impression, but it’s not as though Jo Cox is the only one that ended up there because of a life dedicated to public service. Why is that so little valued or recognised?

It’s a reminder that life may not be as long as we hope and never so long that we can afford for any of it to be wasted

I would hope that, in my own way, I’ve been motivated by some of that same drive towards public service. I don’t think my energy, commitment or success in that regard would match this remarkable woman, but it does define what I hope to achieve. I think I could try harder. I think I could do better. What happened to Jo Cox makes me want to do so.

The entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk (love him or hate him) says that when he used to work with 90-year-olds the most common emotion he encountered was that of regret. All these people had reached the end of their lives and had a long list of regrets for the things they felt they should have done, that they wanted to do, that they never did.

Obviously nobody wants to die at the young age that Jo Cox did. And she would have desperately regretted not seeing her children grow up. But it doesn’t sound as though she would have been regretting much else about her life. She did what she was driven to do, and helped people wherever she could. She grabbed the opportunity she had in front of her every single day.

You can’t change the past. If you knew you were about to die today, you might well look back with all sorts of regrets for what you did, what you didn’t do and so on.

But you can live from now on with a determination that you will do the things you want to do and give yourself some sort of purpose – not necessarily the same sort of purpose that Jo Cox had, one all of your own – but nevertheless purpose not aimlessness.

I just wish that making a difference to the world, whether it be to the environment, to the refugee children of Syria, or to the lonely people in your own community, would be more common part of that purpose. And that there could be a greater sense of urgency in pursuing it.

It’s my aim to use this to refocus on how each day is filled. It’s just a reminder that life may not be as long as we hope, and it’s never so long that we can afford for any of it to be wasted.

Rest in peace Jo Cox, and all those who have lost their lives trying to make a difference wherever they are in the world. You are the best of us, and our inspiration.