Thursday, 30 June 2011

"Though it's galeforce, let's steer a course for sanity"

This is Edwin.  He’s fine now, but he wasn’t a couple of months ago.  He was larking about with his brother at the top of the stairs one night, when he fell through to the hall and broke the neck of his femur.
Hebe found him and called us – poor little thing, lying quietly against the wall looking confused, his leg useless.  We picked him up and took him to the vet who x-rayed him and gave him painkillers.  In the morning we collected him and took him to our own vet, who operated on him.  We had to confine him to the house for a while – just one room for the first week or two, while he gradually recuperated.  You would hardly know there was anything wrong with him now – he’s just not quite such an aerial cat as he used to be.

Yesterday I’d almost completed my grocery shopping, and had two big baskets of fruit and salad things and bread, when a container of herby olives slid out of the basket and split open on the floor of the shop, spilling olives everywhere.  Just nearby one of the store staff stood sorting out shelves.  She laughed uproariously.  “You didn’t want that to happen, did you!” she said: “Never mind, leave that to me, I’ll clear that up; just get another one.”  What a nice lady.

When I got home with the shopping, I had a quick bite of lunch, then it was time to head off out to a bereavement call for a funeral.  At the home of the deceased person I found his wife and her sister.  Together, they had cared for him at home, supporting and helping and nursing, organising the medical and care support that he needed, keeping him company, talking to him, sitting with him – right to the end.  And now, his widow had her sister there with her, loving and comforting her as she faced the loss of her husband after more than forty years of marriage.

If we help each other – like we helped Edwin, like the store assistant helped me, like that bereaved lady helped her husband and her sister in turn helped her – problems don’t diminish, but they are shared and they become manageable.

I have met no end of people who say they cannot believe in God because of all the world’s problems; but I think most of those problems would not prove a challenge to faith if we helped each other.

The last couple of days, while I’ve been running round the Wii-Fit island, I’ve helped my pace stay steady listening to our Alice’s Fisherman’s Friends album of songs about the sea.  Some of the lyrics are about the transports to Australia – grim voyages.  The songs say things like ‘I wished I could die’ or ‘It made you wish you’d never been born’.  It struck me, as I padded along on our carpet, that these terrible emotions belonged to situations of human heartlessness and cruelty.  It’s not disease, accident or natural disaster that make people wish they’d never been born, but imprisonment, torture, terror, oppression and sadism.   We are designed to cope with even awful illnesses and accidents if others are alongside helping us.  Our Hebe likes to watch the emergency services programmes on the TV; I sat with her one day watching as a rescue team gently and carefully freed from a wrecked car the three injured passengers trapped there.  Obviously the crash victims were not having fun but, with reassurance, pain relief and help, they knew themselves to be in good hands: it was bad, but it was OK.

My husband Bernard died of the most awful illness, and he was certainly scared and in extremis at various points.  But as he approached death, his pain now controlled and with us taking care of him at home, praying for him and loving him, he ceased to be afraid.  His fear gave way to gratitude, faith and peace; and that was how he died.  Such deaths do not stop people believing in God.

What destroys faith is the atrocities people are capable of.  The Bible-believing Christians with hate on their faces waving placards saying “God hates faggots”, for example.   Or the US backed Latin American dictators mowing down the protestors on the steps of the cathedral at El Savador so that their bodies flipped like fish as they fell in their droves.  Or the people of Bhopal* left with a legacy of pervasive sickness when the Western owners of the poisonous chemical plant walked away and never came back to finish clearing up the mess they’d left. 

Or even the small everyday things.  The mother I saw out with her children in Silverhill last week, barking out instructions at them, her face hard and cruel.  One of her children, a little girl maybe three years old, walking alongside the pushchair with the baby in it, crying as she walked.  Her little boy, maybe six years old, who started to cross the road (it was clear of traffic) before he was given the command, roared and screamed at, stopping with fear on his face and hastening back to his place in the terrible procession.

When people see these things, their faith in God dies.  It is poisoned at the root.

To nurture faith, to raise it to life again, we do not need a different world, one with no volcanoes, no diseases, no calamities.  Tears and sorrows are natural, they do not disturb faith.  All we need is to switch the points from hating to helping, from condemnation to kindness.

On that Fisherman’s Friends CD, in the song No-Hopers Jokers and Rogues, there’s a line: “Though it’s gale-force, let’s steer a course for sanity.”  That’s what I mean.

*The video on Bhopal I link to above and here is a good example of the devastation that human indifference and irresponsibility can bring, and the reversal and healing that comes when human brothers and sisters come alongside to help and rescue.


BLD in MT said...

Ah, such a thoughtful post. I would have to agree that the problem is not the problems of the world themselves, but that so many people feel they are left to face it all alone. We are so much stronger when we help each other. And when we realize that we are all just humans, all connected, all just trying to get through this thing called life, it is harder not to be kind. Thanks for the post. It will give me lots to think about today. Also, I had never heard of Bhopal and the DOW Chemical tragedy there. How terrible....

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Hi Beth! Waving! x

Bean said...

I love the title of this post! And I agree that people are responsible for so much of the suffering in the world. If everyone did what needed to be done, rather than thinking that someone else will take care of things imagine what a difference it would make. This attitude should be taken from the smallest things to the biggest. A lot of people see what needs to be done, complain that it needs to done and that no one will do it, but never think that perhaps they are the one to do it.
These things from the smallest to the biggest could be as simple as putting on a new roll of toilet tissue if you finish the roll rather than leaving that up to the next person, or it might be something big such as daring to step in to protect a victim or victims of abuse. Either way, if you make it a daily habit to do what you see needs to be done you will make the world a better place for everyone and you will be the sanity in the galeforce.


Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Thanks, Bean! x

Trish said...

I agree with you.
It grieves me to see how we use others to achieve our own mean ends and financial gains.
We could all choose a different path if we wanted to.
It doesn't cost much to pass a cup of comfort on to another soul.
But it can be invaluable to the receiver!
And as a descendant of some who came here via convict ships..I shudder to think of the suffering they endured for their paltry offences.
Mercy has always been a virtue in short supply - or so it seems.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Hi, Trish! Waving!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm wondering when The Hardest Thing will be out? Amazon UK said it would be July 1. Did that happen? I want it! ~Anita

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Anita! :0)

Oh, I know! I've no idea where Amazon got that date from. It's published in the US on July 31st, so the UK will be a few weeks behind (Crossway is a US publisher). The last UK date I heard from IVP, the UK distributor, was August 19th, and they didn't seem too certain about that!

Amazon dot com will be the quickest way of getting it - or a Kindle download.

I'm so encouraged to hear that you're waiting for it!

Anonymous said...

Just popping by to say, "Hi!" I love the title of this post by the way... :)

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Jennifer! Waving! Sending love! x

Jackie said...

My daughters both love the Fisherman's Friends album too, and I'd like to put in an extra word on the end of your excellent post, for all those who, like my younger daughter, have adopted the song which goes
'Mother nature dont draw straight lines, we're broken moulds in life's (God's) grand design, we look a mess, but we're doing fine...'
I so agree with you if we help and support each other, and would kind of like to add 'accept' ...?

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Thanks, Jackie! x