In our grief-laden world, one of the biggest challenges, notwithstanding our sophistication and education, is how to answer the “simple” calls for “help!” For while they appear simple, familiar, and quite often, are repeats of previous encounters, it is the response that is given to each call that makes a difference.
A life can be recovered or lost, hope can be salvaged or destroyed, while resilience can be strengthened or washed away, by our response to a distress call. What do we do with the young boys and girls whose time at school is instead replaced by endless days of begging at street corners? What happens, as is wont to happen, when you catch one of them spending your small gift on beer, cigarettes or other harmful substances?
Our response mechanisms are challenged everyday. Another scourge which is tearing our social fabric apart is the shameful incidence of child abuse. How do we dispense hope and healing in such cases? How do we re-create the bond of trust that an abused child justifiably felt entitled to – and then lost – in cruel circumstances? I watched in amazement as a concerned group of parents in South Africa recently shared their novel way of helping the traumatized children. Still, I found the approach may not go far enough. It prepares children for court (child or victim-friendly courts) by having dogs play the various “personalities” to be encountered in court. In this way, it is hoped that by the time an affected child is giving evidence, he or she will have been inured to the potentially intimidating court room. (I remember chuckling at the impressive creativity of the improvisation – for example, the role of magistrate or judge was the preserve of a metre-tall dog, appropriately dressed in black robes!)
I said grief-laden world at my opening. Here is why; it is fact that in almost every direction we cast our eyes, there is a need. Serious cases in need of urgent relief. Job losses, economic turmoils that wipe out people’s meagre savings, broken relationships (especially the alarming divorce rates), and bereavement. Oh, and here is my other take: DEPRESSION can be caused by a huge range of factors. Once, I was of the view that VERY FEW SITUATIONS lead to DEPRESSION. Now I KNOW BETTER.
At the centre or heart of my new knowledge is also the sad but indisputable fact that we all have different coping mechanisms. WE DO NOT HANDLE, MUCH LESS, RESPOND TO, TRYING CIRCUMSTANCES IN THE SAME WAY! Some appear to be stronger than others. Yet I SHOULD POSIT THIS POINT – at some time, in the quiet hours of the night or early morning, when there is nothing to distract one’s thought trail, the full burden and meaning of what one is going through IS AT ITS MOST CLEAR!
IT MAY BE QUIET MOMENTS ON THE OUTSIDE; IT IS A REAL HELL IN THE MIND, A CRUEL STAB ON THE SOUL, AND REALITY BITES! TEARS ARE NOT UNCOMMON.
I argue, and with good, solid support, that in our attempts to calm the situations of distress and need in our midst, we should carefully consider our responses. Measure our words. Tailor them to a situation that has been carefully calibrated. For, it is possible that what were healing words on someone, indeed, a once-effective sermon on some occasion, can very well fall flat in another situation.
Let us not recoil from asking such questions as “what is the need here, what can I DO or SAY?” Sounds like RESEARCH? Yes, it does, because it must be! SOME OF OUR WELL-MEANING WORDS HAVE CAUSED MORE PAIN THAN PEACE. BELOW, I SHARE A DEVOTIONAL THAT REMINDED ME OF THE TRICKY YET UNAVOIDABLE CALL TO CONFRONT SITUATIONS OF SUFFERING…