Picture: Ambro, Freedigitalphotos.net
Okay. I admit it. I am really fed up with the grey and rainy days that appear to have been our lot since … well, forever. And I have a lot of sympathy with a friend of mine who once remarked that if he was in charge of the weather he would make it only rain at night. Every day seems more grey than the last and the occasional sunny days only appear to serve as a cruel reminder that the rain will be back tomorrow.
Oh dear. SAD syndrome appears to be infecting this blog as well as the entire population of the West Country and beyond. I think if I were to start a campaign for people to stand together and shout at the sky at the same time on the same day, the rest of the world might be deafened by our shouts of anger and frustration. Our empathy is with and for those who face weeks and months and perhaps even years of misery while insurance claims are sorted out, while homes are dried out and while the terrible smell that lingers in flooded homes is dealt with.
And while I accept that people who live near brooks and streams and rivers and on ground below sea level or on flood plains or where the water table is high, have to face an element of risk from living in that situation, I still feel their pain as they try to deal with the aftermath of their choices. I admit I have been slightly guilty of making that judgment but now that feeling – unlike the waters currently flooding much of the area I love here in the West Country – is beginning to subside as I hear so many stories of people trying to come to terms with the destruction of their place of safety they call home.
The human tendency to blame each other – as old as Adam and Eve – often overrides the need to care and love for people as Jesus commands us to. After all, Jesus specifically told us not to judge each other – how well he knows us – and reminds us that we’re no better than anyone else.
It grieves me to hear of people being shunned and thrown out of their homes, families and communities because they are HIV positive. It saddens me to hear people say the words, “It’s their own fault, it was their lifestyle choice.” When someone close to you who is at risk of heart attack or a stroke ignores the warnings and suffers the consequences, your first thought isn’t to tell them it’s their own fault. Your first thought is to get to their side, to hold their hand, to be with them, to show your love for them.
Bob Geldof’s ironic song, The Great Song of Indifference
is a stark challenge to a way of thinking we are often guilty of falling into. His words about not minding about nations dying, not caring if the environment is destroyed, or caring whether people stay or go in our lives have often made me sit up and think about my own attitudes. Indifference and apathy are as bad as judging people. It was the politician Edmund Burke who said in the 1700s, 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.'
Thankfully in the flooded areas of the West Country where I live and around other parts of the United Kingdom, there is evidence that good men and women aren't sitting idly by. I watched in admiration and amazement the work being done by a whole community of people to get straw through to farmers cut off by water in Somerset. From the donations of bales from farmers in Yorkshire, to a convoy of cars, lorries and tractors working together to get the straw through to the look on the face of the farmer being helped, the whole exercise was heart-warming and a reminder of just how splendid the human race can be. People of all faiths and none, emergency services, armed forces and ordinary but brilliant people working together to help each other, asking no questions, other than 'How can we help?'
Someone once said to me, rather sarcastically, 'I suppose Heather, you think you can change the whole world.' I replied, 'No. I can’t, but I can work to make a difference in the bit of the world that has been entrusted to me.'
And we all can. And while each individual act may not appear to make a huge difference, working together certainly can. I work for an Anglican charity called Us which works with others to bring hope and a brighter future to those caught in the darkness of despair. We don’t judge. We don’t blame it on HIV, alcohol dependency, laziness, corruption or any of the other strange reasons people often use as an excuse not to support or help others. We don’t say, 'It’s your own fault.' Instead we try to help communities find ways forward out of their darkness and into a better sustainable future. And they do.
Standing alongside people to help is a much better and more positive way of living a life than to stand and watch and throw rude remarks and mud at those struggling to deal with what has come their way. Jesus was once asked by his disciples whether a man’s blindness was due to his own actions. The answer came back that wasn’t about that at all, but to instead show God’s love in action in a miracle of healing.
So when we see whatever current version of the Blame Game is being played out whether locally or nationally or internationally, let’s try and look beyond the situation to the people stuck in them. We need to bring healing and hope, love and light, not carping and criticism. And please, let's stop playing the Blame Game too. The moral high ground isn’t where Jesus would have been standing on these occasions and neither should you or I.
It’s more likely he’d be putting on his wellies, galoshes, sou’westers and getting stuck in. I think I know where I should be too.