The horrible event in Manchester a week ago touched so many people, and my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones. I was in the city again this weekend and was moved by some of the new art work promoting community as well as some of the tributes I have watched online including Tony Walsh’s poem ‘This is the Place’. Some people have shared the quotation from Fred Rogers, a US TV presenter who used to encourage children facing scary news to ‘look for the helpers’:
Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” (PBS website)
This seems to be good advice for children and adults when we are disturbed by shocking events which we might see on TV news – faced with senseless evil which makes us see the worst in humanity it can give us a better perspective to focus on the good: the hardworking members of the emergency services, bystanders who rush in to help like Stephen Jones and those who work in counselling and pastoral services to support families and others affected after the event, including many inspired by their faith.
I went to a prayer meeting in Manchester yesterday evening where the group are working through the one of the Thy Kingdom Come resources called the Novena, using artwork by Caleb Simmons. Here he is discussing the piece we looked at yesterday:
There’s a female paratrooper on the brink of jumping from a plane, and we looked at an accompanying passage about Esther in the Bible as she prepared to go to the King to plead for lives of her people. One of the things that struck me about the picture and the passage was how even though each woman appears alone, on the brink of a significant step which only she can take, she’s not actually alone. The paratrooper has someone flying the plane, and others in the plane with her and who have presumably helped with her kit and preparation. Similarly even when put on the spot by Mordecai, Esther asks him to gather the Jews in Susa to pray and fast for her, as she will also gather those who serve her in the palace. It made me want to be more aware of and grateful for the people who support me, and to look out for people about to take a new step of faith and see how I can support and pray for them too.
Sometimes help comes from a more unlikely source. I had an interesting discussion with a friend in need last week, who had received a rather nebulous ‘let us know if we can do anything to help’ offer from family some distance away. While he didn’t want to prevail upon them, or be disappointed if they let him down, I did feel strongly that he needed to give them the chance to help him out, even with all the uncertainties of how they might respond. Sometimes we do have to make ourselves a bit vulnerable and ask for help, to allow others to help us. Perhaps some of the victims in Manchester might not have expected a homeless person to come to their aid.
The friendship between a group of London Gay and Lesbian activists and a Welsh mining community might have been similarly unexpected, but I love this true story portrayed in the film ‘Pride’ which I rewatched yesterday afternoon. One of the characters, Dai, explains it like this:
I love the way the friendship is portrayed in the film, and how later on the miners get a chance to show their solidarity with LGSM at the 1985 Pride festival. When our fellow human beings are being beaten down, by prejudice or terrorists or cancer or depression, we have the chance to be the one who chooses love and reaches out, and to celebrate the others who are doing the same.