Equipped with multiple layers of warm, waterproof clothing, cameras, and note pads we headed out for a full day of touring. Our tour guide Garvin Kerr urged us to look for connections between our personal lives and what we were seeing.
Garvin remains forever grateful to his parents, hard-working people who endured many hard times to raise a family of during the troubled times in Northern Ireland. Fiercely proud of his heritage, Garvin made a couple of profound statements. “We must go forward for our children, not for us. Maybe some good might come out of the bad. If people want to come to Northern Ireland to ask us about peacekeeping, we would stand so proud if people could learn from us.”
Garvin reminds me of my late Father - an eternal optimist. Several times he stated, “We are so fortunate. We don’t know how fortunate we are. We need to remember what we do have here.” I think most people we have met thus far are aware and are grateful for peace. It’s not something anyone takes for granted.
It was fun to hear him talk about his Scottish heritage, joking that the family name ‘Kerr’ means ‘Late but in earnest’. Scotland and Northern Ireland are ‘connected’ and he called them ‘cousins’.
His advice to people seeking information was to go to the local cemetary or church, stating "The greatest source of information is the local church and cemetery."
Garvin referred to Derry as “The gem of the North” adding, “We are very proud of what we do in our wee city.”
It made me smile to hear Garvin say “Whenever you’ve got a problem – go back to the basics.”
The tour was educational, yes, but it was much more than that. Our guide transformed us from passive tourists to connected people. He began the tour with a challenge to look for connections. By carefully weaving threads of his story with personal glimpses of his humanity, we were able to see the connections.
It was true, what he said.
“There were some really good times – some funny times and humor took them trough the trouble times.”
We laughed with them, at ourselves, at each other and together we made some memories. We’re more similar than we are different that’s for sure.
His reflections are that the peace bridge is further proof that peace will prevail and he reminded us to be sure to take a walk across the bridge.