Our minds this week have been full of the London fire tragedy. We have, like the rest of the country, so many questions about what really happened: why the fire spread so rapidly? what will this mean for future builds? for existing tower blocks? We also have some pretty big questions about where God is in all this sadness.
The London fire has knocked the London Bridge terror attack off first place in our minds, which had replaced the Manchester bomb attack in the news headlines. And it’s too much, too sad. It makes us weary.
There are the heroes: the firemen running into a building everyone else is running out of; the unarmed policemen engaging a knife-wielding terrorist; the selfless individuals who, with no regard for their own safety, enter the fray to save life or stop evil.
Yet beyond the headlines of casualties, investigations and political comment we see the little stories of people just getting on with it; Taxi drivers turning up at the Manchester Arena offering free rides, hashtags on Twitter helping with accommodation for the night or offering a safe place to go, Londoners donating clothes, nappies, water and toothbrushes to people they don’t – or will ever – know. An outpouring of compassion rising up against the anguish, pain and fear. These people, who would normally pass one another as strangers, are working together, giving together, sharing together, serving together in the face of the hatred and the hardship. It’s an impressive sight to behold.
These UK-based experiences of human cooperation are not unique. There is a long history of collaboration in the face of crisis. Consider the London Blitz, for example, or the days following the 9/11 in New York. In fact, the same mutual coming together of human compassion can be seen after most major disasters around the world.
When so much of our news focuses on the bad, the negative, the glass-half-empty it is encouraging to read of the stories of the everyday heroes, of people just getting on with it. It reminds us that everyone we have ever met or will ever meet is made in the image of our loving God. It is perhaps when humanity sinks to its greatest depths, the image of God shines most brightly within us. So listen out for the stories of true humanity and their Christ-like service, sacrifice and love shown to the lost, the stranger and afflicted. And let it encourage you to believe the best in others.
The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it. David W. Orr