08 July 2011
How can I plan a holiday, now I know about this tragedy?
Turning on the television can be risky: switch on for a bit of easy entertainment - some 'chewing gum for the eyes', as Frank Lloyd Wright describes it - and you may find yourself confronted by something you'd rather not see.
Take the other evening. I'd been at the computer searching for a last-minute holiday and decided to have a break. I caught the news and a report on the devastating effects of drought in the Africa. Unbearable distress. Appalling suffering.
And now what? How can I possibly carry on blithely planning a summer holiday, now that I know about this tragedy? What are my options?
Number one: don't look. Turn the television off at once. This isn't my problem. Let the government send some of that aid they sprinkle around so liberally - as though we haven't got enough problems of our own! Get back to the computer - and please God, let it be sunny in August!
Number two: keep the TV on. It seems too callous to switch it off, but don't get involved emotionally. The reporter's chosen that little girl with her wide eyes and desperate cry because he wants it to get to me. What can I do in the face of such need anyway? We've been here before. And what was it Jesus said about the poor always being with you? It's something we just have to live with.
Trouble is, as I head back to the computer I'm left with a sense of unease and guilt that's weighing me down. Somehow, the pleasure's gone and every holiday I look at has lost its charm. I just can't get that girl out of my head.
So, how about number three? Announce to the family that there won't be a holiday this year: the money's going to the appeal. They need it far more than we do. Didn't Jesus tell that rich young man to sell his possessions and give everything to the poor? This is the least we can do.
The glow lasts for a couple of days and then resentment sets in. We deserve a holiday. It's been a tough year and we'd promised ourselves time together. A holiday at home feeling sorry for ourselves isn't quite what I had in mind.
So, I need a fourth option that responds with God-given compassion that's not just a knee-jerk reaction to this one disaster and to a few selected verses of scripture, but a measured and sustainable response to the obligation God has placed on us to care for the poor.
I'm going to try this:
a) Follow the news story with open eyes and ears. Educate myself - find out what's led to this catastrophe and whether things could be done differently.
c) Pray - believing God that this is vital to bringing about change in every situation.
d) Gather my family and together work out what we should give. Find out which organisation is most effectively providing aid where it's needed and send the money or set up a standing order.
e) Return to computer with revised plans for holiday, based now on a smaller budget, giving thanks for all that we enjoy every day of the year and the privilege of having enough to share.
Becky Silver - teacher and BBC radio broadcaster