22 April 2019

Five things at difficult times

On the day of the Christchurch tragedy I was at school doing a day's relief teaching, which means an eight hour media blackout.  So when I eventually checked my phone it was clear that something terrible had happened in the world that day.  Fortunately I'd been spared the awful vision - it had been well and truly taken down by the time I got near it.  But  Facebook lit up with all manner of opinion and reaction. Of the many comments made online that day, one stood out for me - words from a dear and wise friend - which included the following, shared with permission.

"An horrific crime and tragedy has taken place in Christchurch, NZ. Keep silence, pray, weep, help. Then, reach out to someone who is not like you."

Keep silence.




Reach out.

Everything in this list is deeply good and the order is perfect, but it is the first point that ironically screams YES to me.  We are quick to speak, especially in this age of social media, and in increasingly unguarded fashion.  We are quick to anger.  Quick to level blame.  Quick to draw comparisons.  Quick to offer commentary when we're not in full possession of the facts.  We're apt to say things in the heat of the moment that at best, we regret down the track and at worst, bring the gospel into disrepute.  Keep silence.

And then we can pray.  Instead of talking to the world of social media, to our colleagues around the water cooler or even (perhaps especially) to our families around the dinner table, let's talk first to the One who is sovereign over all things.  Talk to the One whose care and concern is for the national and also the individual. Talk to the One who desires not the death of a sinner but that all would repent and turn to Him.  Talk to the One who understands the mess of emotion we all feel at these times - even the lack of emotion if compassion fatigue has set in.  Ask God to intervene in the situation.  Ask that He would help those afflicted, the families involved, those responding and those making important decisions in the midst of chaos.  Ask that he would help Christians on the ground to be and to do whatever they can, whatever their circumstances.  Ask that He would help the media to report wisely and well.  Ask that our own responses - wherever they might find their home - will be helpful and God honouring.

And weep. Giving rise to those feelings and sitting with the sadness for a while brings humanity to the moment, makes us a little less brash and a little more vulnerable, and maybe provides a moment for God to work in us.

At which point it's time for God to work through us.  It's time to help.  If you are in close quarters is there something you can do?  If you are further away from the epicentre is there something tangible you can offer like a donation of money or goods?   Do you know someone closer in who needs something or who knows what is needed at the source? 

A friend of mine, a quilter, found a group who were making quilts to give to the families affected by the Christchurch event.  She was able to make one, filled with all the love she could muster, to be sent to the source.

Perhaps far, far away from the epicentre you know someone who is impacted ("triggered" seems to be the word at the moment) for reasons known or unknown.  Can you hold their hand for a while?  Even carefully crafted words - like the words on my friend's Facebook post after keeping silence, prayer and weeping - help to encourage, redirect, point in the right direction.

Ring Theory
Don't forget the Ring Theory.  This is the most on point thinking I have encountered on the whole subject of helping.  Comfort in and dump out.  If you're facing into the epicentre you pour in comfort and help.  It isn't helpful to moan and groan to someone closer to the tragedy.  They're already suffering.  If you need to vent or debrief then you turn out from the epicentre and find the support you need with someone further away from the problem.  (Click on the links to read more.  It's life changing.)

And finally reach out to someone who is not like you.  Unless you are right at hand to help in the midst of the tragedy it is easy to feel helpless and hopeless. We want to reach out, to hug or hold a hand, to share what resources we have, to provide something immediate and tangible.  But if we live elsewhere we can't easily do that.  But we could take that energy, that motivation, that desire to help, that beautiful part that sits at the core of our humanity, and channel it where it's needed right where we are.  Don't waste it.  That may mean crossing a socio-economic, ethnic, cultural, religious, educational, age, hygiene or quite some other divide.  And that's a good thing.  Because when we truly hold hands with those different from us who are impoverished by their circumstances we begin to see that we're not all that different after all. 

Today we find our world in the midst of another tragedy - as I write the death toll in the Sri Lankan attacks is nearly 300 with 500 more injured - and we know that there will be more tragedies after this one, many unreported, and that this doesn't even begin to account for crises that occur at an individual level.  But these are good words to remember and to put into practice at times like these.  Keep silence, pray, weep, help and then reach out.

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