When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’
Whenever we find the news depressing this is something worth bearing in mind. There are two sides to any coin (and of course, an edge); there is the side of any “News” item that is upsetting and that is the one on which commentators and cameras focus and where our attention is draw. The other side comprises all the hidden heroes who are working to make the situation better. The edge is where these two meet, where good is done, where we might find ourselves.
Of course, when a coin falls, we generally see only one side and ignore the edge totally. Like the toast that always falls butter-side down, news “coins” frequently land showing the disaster face upwards. We have to work hard sometimes to see the helpers; the firemen, the police, the medical staff, the members of the public using their own clothing to keep victims warm, exposing themselves to inconvenience and danger.
The more we train ourselves to spot the helpers, the more examples we get of how to become one. The more we see the helping in action, the less depressing the news becomes. When there is a disaster in a big city, we sometimes hear how UBER put their prices up as cabs become difficult to hail, but black cab drivers often ferry victims and their relatives free of charge. Wherever refugees gather, with their associated medical problems; wherever civilians come under fire; we find Médecin sans Frontières volunteers, giving freely, and at risk to themselves, of their professional expertise. The more we talk to people in distress, the more we understand that we are not the first, or even the most valued, listening ear, but that others also serve.
St Paul was good at spotting, encouraging, and acknowledging helpers. He refers to Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and Epaphras, more than once. Phebe, Dorcas, Mary, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Priscilla (probably the author of Hebrews) and her husband, all get mentions. We should perhaps determine to credit our helpers a bit more often. After all, the more we express our thanks to or about those who help us in times of need, the more we improve the community atmosphere, changing it from depressing to exhilarating.
Today is Christian Aid Sunday. Let us all become Christians who give Aid, Christians who celebrate Aid being given, and who refuse to be depressed by the news. Let us keep our edge at the interface of disaster and humanity.