You know those moments when your heart lifts? Like, when a professional snooker player declares a foul against himself even though the referee didn’t see it; and you get that almost electric thrill from a glimpse of true sportsmanship.
Or when Tricia Marwick turned down the offer of a mention in the Queen’s birthday honours list; and you feel that brief surge of vicarious pride in such a display of quiet nobility and resolute principle.
You know what I mean, I’m sure.
I had one of those moments a couple of years ago. A moment when my heart lifted spontaneously. It was around Christmas time on a dark, dreich late afternoon and I was walking along Perth High Street when, a short distance in front of me, I spotted Deputy First Minister and then Finance Secretary, John Swinney, standing in the middle of the street being, as far as I could tell, gently harangued by a couple of elderly ladies. Fingers were being wagged and John was looking as earnest and attentive as he was cold and wet, so I assumed that whatever was being discussed was a matter of some importance to the two ladies.
At that moment, a thought occurred to me. I was struck by the sudden realisation of how privileged I was to live in Scotland – a country where one of the highest-ranking politicians in the land could, without the slightest affectation, walk the streets in fear of nothing more than the prospect of being buttonholed by some irate constituent.
My heart lifted at that thought.
Today, my heart fell. As I heard news of the attack on Jo Cox and her subsequent sad demise, my heart fell. It fell, not only but certainly not least, because of the implications this tragedy might have for the country I feel privileged to live in. A country where our elected representatives are part of the community and not separated from it by a wall of fear and armed security.
My heart fell because, as well as a dedicated representative and a precious loved one, something else may have died with Jo Cox.