’Another Dianna Day’ is how one writer in the press described the 11th of September. They might well have described it as another ’John F Kennedy’ day. We all know where we were, and what we were doing on the day that the "World Trade Center" was attacked.
Some events are big enough to create a dent or glitch in our psyche. Some events may even be big enough to move us - for a little while - or stir up feelings of anger, fear, or righteousness.
But such events are rare, unless we are personally involved with them. And even though they might remain in our memories, they are not long in our hearts. We may remember them, but they do not command any long-term power over us.
Remember when Turkey suffered that last big earthquake? Thousands were trapped or killed; many more were made homeless. You may have seen an old woman lay pinned, unable to move, worrying about her family buried beneath her; or a young man crying for his daughter. Terribly sad, of course, but we’d never have considered watching a 24 hour-a-day live coverage of the disaster. It was somewhere else - someone else; a foreign country; a foreign people. Someone else’s tragedy.
On the 11th of September, as we watched the attack on the World Trade Center, we were all shocked and horrified. This was real. It was happening. It was terrible. And we watched through the night.
Yet although it was real, in another sense it wasn’t. The building could well have been evacuated. Most people may have escaped down the stairs. You couldn’t actually see anyone being killed. It was just a lot of smoke and fire. True, we did see another plane hit the second tower, but we don’t actually know there was anyone in the plane. It was probably just a madman. Besides, if anyone was killed - well they were people we don’t know. Unknown people. And anyway, it was all a long way away - almost a world away in fact. It was still impersonal. It was someone else’s tragedy.
Since the Chinese invasion of Tibet, 1.2 million people have died. One in ten Tibetans have been held in prisons or forced labour camps for ten to twenty years. Another terrible news report. But, well, its just print in the paper. Not real people. And where is Tibet anyway? It is just someone else’s tragedy.
Do we know or care how many indigenous Australians have died since the white Australians settled here? Or how many black deaths in custody have there been? Or how many refugees have died because Australia has turned its back on them? Isn’t it just another case of " Someone else’s tragedy"?
Does anyone remember the number of people killed on the roads so far this year? Or died from drug overdoses? Or from violent crime? Are there really unemployed people? Are there really families living on or under the poverty line, or are they all just faceless statistics.
It is always someone else’s tragedy. So terrible. So sad. So lets watch the next episode of Neighbours.
But it is not always someone else’s tragedy. Every person who dies is someone’s relative or friend. People in Afghanistan are just like those in America; The Tibetans are just like the Chinese; Natives, professors, economists, farmers, computer programmers, firemen, policemen, prisoners, waiters, newsreaders, shepherds, and engineers all share one distinct similarity. They are all human. They all feel grief for those that they lose; however it may be that they lose them. They are like us. Just like us. Regardless of their race; Regardless of their geography; Regardless of their religion; Regardless of their politics.
It is not that we do not care. It is not that we are indifferent to others’ suffering. Rather, we are so used to violence and destruction in movies, that we find it difficult to fully accept in real life. When someone is shot, they simply grunt, climb back onto their horse and ride away. Do we care about the ’extra’ in Independence Day who is vaporized by the alien ray? How would others react if we cried for each actor ’killed’ in "Saving Private Ryan"? We are so conditioned to ’virtual reality’ that even reality itself has become ’virtual’. How can we see images from a real-life disaster and fully comprehend what we are seeing, when we are so used to seeing it all in so much better quality in the movies, where we know it doesn’t matter?
The next time you hear of someone who has been murdered, killed in an accident, or lost their family or home, try this simple trick. Close your eyes. Imagine that it is someone close to you - your sister, mother, husband or child. Really imagine how you would feel if it were your friend rather than just a statistic. Grow your love and compassion by bringing the tragedy home in your mind. Personalise the tragedy.
When you have done this, give thanks to the Lord that you have been spared this suffering. And pray for all those who have not. Pray for the dead, and those who are left behind. Pray for those you love. And then, make your day really count.
You might ask, "Isn’t this just tempting fate? Am I not in danger of causing some terrible thing to happen to someone I love?"
Most people have, at one time or another thought about or wished for something they didn’t have. Perhaps you desired a Ferrari, a Mink coat, diamonds, a mansion, a million dollars, or a trip on a space ship to the stars. But how many times did it happen? I used to imagine my very own Britt Ekland but I never got one! My mother told me never to say things like "I might get a flat tyre". I have tried it hundreds of times. Still no flat!
Some people might be concerned that they could just get depressed from this.
Let me suggest that if you are depressed already, then don’t do it! This is not for you.
For everyone else, it is important to give thanks to the Lord, and pray for those suffering, but then move on. Do not dwell on it. Use the experience to motivate you, to encourage you to use your skills and your gifts to further the Lords work. Reflect on what you have, and how lucky you are. We should not waste a single second of life except in the service of God.
By coming closer to the things that go on around us, in our world, we can work more diligently to change it into the sort of place that we all desire.
Dare to Care.