One or many

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Last night on the Gold Coast, a 16 year old lost his life to fatal stab wounds.

On the same night, the terror attacks on Paris. Many lives lost and the complete (and certainly justified) outrage and horror that then ensued on social media was inescapable. Meanwhile, a teenage boy is murdered and there is no noise.

The pain of loss knows no circumstances. The loss of one among many or the loss of one only is the same for those who mourn them. Grief, such an intimate and acutely personal reality, is not lessened because of a collective majority. Grief is grief. Loss is loss.

Those who love the 16 year old from the Gold Coast are right now going through the same anguish as those who’ve lost loved ones in Paris.

There’s been such an outpouring of support for France – declarations on social media about not hating Muslims, changing profile pictures to reflect the French flag. What does any of that really do?

It was the same after the Syrian refugee crisis. So much ‘love’ on social media. “We’ll accept them!” was the cry. Yet many in our own countries, cities, suburbs, remained homeless, unfed and unnoticed, despite our fervent proclamations of generosity and goodwill to our fellow man.

Instead of thinking so ‘big’, how about we start thinking ‘small’. Personally, I can do nothing that will actually alleviate the pain of those in France. But I can take flowers round to the elderly lady who recently lost her husband of 60 years and sit and listen to her memories. I can pick up groceries and have a coffee with the friend who’s recovering from a miscarriage. I can listen to the heartache of the loss of a marriage. I can stop and buy a homeless person a meal. I can buy hygiene products for women on the streets. I can support the mother standing by her child in court. I can visit a lonely neighbour. I can do a million and one things right here.

It’s easy to change your profile picture, to write a status update of support. Harder to get our hands dirty, stand alongside people and quite literally feel their pain with them.

It’s time we stopped being conscious of what our online presence looks like and start focussing on the very people we are surrounded by every day. We need to change our thinking, not our profile picture. The pain of that family at the Gold Coast is the same pain felt in France. The distress of the Syrian refugees is the same as the mother in Brisbane with nowhere for her children to sleep at night.

We are capable of so much more than simply showing virtual support. Let’s start showing it.

7 thoughts on “One or many

  1. You have expressed here what I’ve been feeling for the last couple of days since the tragedy in France. What about all the “little” people here in our own neighborhood, our own department, our own circle of friends, our own community? I know several people right now, right here, that are suffering because of medical or personal challenges, and I just wrote a few notes on note cards that I’ll deliver or mail tomorrow. And action – just sharing a French flag on our profile photo does nothing (except maybe to let the French people know that their plight is reaching our shores), and it does little to help those that need it right here, right now. Thank you, Susannah, for bringing this to the front lines here in my own life.

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  2. Susannah, this post reminds me how much I don’t want to feel pain. I can get away from the heartache in Paris by next week because I wasn’t personally impacted and life goes on. However, when I look around me, there’s no escaping pain in my family, in my church, and with my friends. So, sometimes I don’t look. It easier to have an emotional (but kind of detached) moment and change my profile picture than to hear a friend tell about her daughter’s miscarriage at 14 weeks. The more I’m willing to admit and accept this about myself, the more open I am to changing it. As always, my friend, thank you.

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  3. I shared this. Taking action in our own back yards benefits those who take action as well as those in need of comfort and help. None of us can do everything, but we surely all can do SOMEthing. And doing something for others right where we stand is both constructive and therapeutic. I’ve been reading a lot of blog postings discussing Paris and Syrian refugees this morning. So much to process. This post offers a practical way to take positive action. Thank you.

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