I hear people asking the big question: ‘When will the craziness end?’ I assume they mean the murder, mayhem and extremist behaviour we’ve been witnessing for the past year and more. It’s interesting though how a few of these conversations seem to be within the context of self. Here’s what I mean.
I’ve cancelled my holiday to Turkey this year (and it’s all their fault!). I wonder if my grandparents said, ‘we planned to visit Auntie Flo but her house has been bombed and it’s not fair.
My understanding is that the war and subsequent major conflicts have brought people and communities together, sharing what they had, comforting those in despair and working in a spirit of love, hope and co-operation.
There will always be a selfishness and a survival of the fittest when disaster strikes but in my experience it’s rivalled by the kindness of strangers. People check on their neighbours and help the physically less able with shopping or cooking and provide a supporting shoulder for the vulnerable. I remember when it was commonplace to take hot meals round to the recently bereaved as a way of showing empathy. Food is a uniting factor when times are tough.
New bonds are forged in times of crisis. People talk to each other face to face to share their fears and feel a sense of solidarity that’s not there when all is right with the world. Yes, there will be people who take advantage of such situations by escalating criminal activity and trying to capitalise on the misfortune of others but watching how individuals have risked their lives to help survivors of earthquakes, tsunamis and war should give us hope that the intrinsic nature of people is altruistic and not selfish.
We don’t have to look overseas to ceaseless acts of kindness when disaster strikes. The floods in Cumbria in late 2015 brought out helpers from all over northern England whatever their nationality or religion. Even if we can’t physically clear homes of filthy water and damaged possessions, we can offer a cup of tea or even a few moments of comfort.
Working with the homeless has shown me that it’s sharing our time and showing our care that has more impact than throwing a few coins into a plastic cup. Creating a bond even for a short time is about making a human to human connection, something most of us need when the world feels like a frightening place as it does right now.
We look on helplessly as more people around the world are murdered by whatever means at their disposal and belief systems however twisted and we wonder what we can do. We light candles, create hashtags, lay flowers in the hope it might help. Even though this small act of solidarity has been criticised by mean spirited commentators, it shows that in our helplessness, we are joining together against acts of evil, there’s nothing we can do to stem the tide of hatred and terror.
But there is something we can do. We can stop the keyboard warrior behaviour which doesn’t help heal the hatred and divisions we see in society. If we want real change then we need to be part of the solution and not add to the problem.
Let’s show a bit of blitz spirit and help just one person in need of company, conversation and comfort. It might make us feel a little bit more in control in these extraordinary times.