Love thy neighbour instead of worrying about the world

My mind was in an interesting place this morning. I have been sick off and on for the last few weeks so I have been unable to do any morning exercise as I like to do.

I am almost better though so this morning I decided to lace up the runners and head out into the rice fields. Just a walk I thought as I still don’t have enough energy to run very far. A walk meant I could bring my headphones. When I jog here in Thailand I leave the headphones at home because of the dogs that like to chase you and munch on a bit of white meat for a change in their diet. When you walk you are ignored so I can bring the headphones as I don’t have to listen out for them sneaking up behind me.

Having headphones means having my iphone with me also and being addicted to the internet and the 24 hour news cycle like I am I checked my twitter account as I hit the outskirts of the village. I noticed immediately that something big has happened in America. Another mass shooting at a school and this time involving very young children. The same age as my own.

I immediately feel my heart quicken, my blood pressure rise. I ask myself, How can this continue to happen? “Come on Obama” I say out loud causing the nearby buffalo grazing quietly to raise its head, slightly startled, to check me out. I swap back to thinking again. Come on Obama, what have you got to lose? Your final term as President, time to get serious. Make a real name for yourself and do something about this destruction of kids, families, school, community – your entire country – that is happening right before your eyes.

It is my turn to be startled now as a motorbike slowly chugs past me with Dad driving, mum on the back with a child in each arm. The Mum turns and flashes me a smile while the eldest of the two kids points and giggles at me as I stride along.

I am surprised at my anger over these shootings and decide to turn twitter off and put on a podcast. I pick one at random. It turns out to be an interview with historian Paul Ham who is talking about his latest book called Dying on their feet.

Within minutes I am almost in tears listening to the atrocities at Sandakan, a notorious prisoner of war camp in Borneo run by the Japanese during World War II. Once again I start asking myself unanswerable questions. How can this be allowed to happen? What makes people do such despicable things? Are these things still happening in Syria, Eygypt, Iran, Guantanamo Bay? What is wrong with the world?

Once again I am interrupted, this time by some birds that have just taken off nearby. Their pure white feathers are perfectly framed against the brilliant blue sky that stretches across the recently harvested rice fields.

My view most of the time during my walk this morning.

I take my headphones off and start paying more attention to the scenery around me. A man on a motorbike who looks like he is heading off to work slows right down and asks where I am going. I tell him just a walk, for exercise. He laughs out loud with a fantastic deep chuckle, calls me crazy and rides off. Next along the small track is an iron buffalo. A small Kubota engine with two wheels and a long draw bar. It is towing a trailer which has the entire family in it as well as four dogs. A massive grin comes across the drivers face when he sees me. I recognise him from my village. He has seen me jogging a few weeks previously and he enquires as to why today I am walking.

After 9 kms I get closer to home and see more and more people. They are all going about the daily business but at the same time making it fun. Lots of laughing and chatter by the adults with friends, family and neighbours. Being a Saturday kids are heading out on their bicycles down the dusty corrugated main road. Some have kites but most are carrying fishing rods.

None of them are remotely aware that on the other side of the world there are almost 30 people who have just lost their lives for no reason at all. 30 families have just been literally torn apart and it will take generations before they are put back together again. None of them would be thinking about all the former and current POW’s around the world that are suffering pain, humiliation and total dehumanisation – the likes of what we can never, ever, imagine.

I am not saying they don’t care, just that they are unaware. There are no newspapers sold in the village. The evening news is skipped over in favour of the latest dramatic soap opera and the radio remains firmly stuck on the country station. They worry about what affects them. They worry about things that they can deal with. Those people and events that live and happen in their own back yard. They don’t take on unnecessary stress by worrying about things they cannot fix.

I used to think that they were deprived by not understanding what is happening around the world but now I am not so sure. Why should they have to worry about world events when for most of them, their world is the district that they live in.

As a Christian I am taught and believe immensely in the words throughout the bible imploring us to love our neighbour. The word neighbour was always mentioned as being not just the person living next door to you but really anyone in the entire world. While I still believe that I am starting to feel that I personally have it all wrong. Why do I read the news and worry about events across massive oceans when right next door to me people are suffering? Why do I donate money to causes in another continent when right next door to me someone cannot afford to feed their kids healthy food? Why do I cause myself stress worrying about people I will never meet when the person right next door to me is depressed and contemplating suicide?

Don’t sweat the big stuff they say. Worry about your family and your neighbours. Do good where you can. I think I am starting to listen.

I don’t usually write blogs like this but with such a cross section of readers from around the world I am really interested to hear what you think. Do you worry about world events? Do you know your neighbour? Do you help them? Should I stop reading the internet news pages and open my eyes a little more to what is happening around me? Yes, I think so.

19 responses to “Love thy neighbour instead of worrying about the world

  1. Well writen and much food for thought for me

  2. I received this comment via email.

    “A very good blog. Sometimes I think it is “easier” to worry and give to people you dont know, maybe on the otherside of the world, because then you dont have to get personally involved. So literally loving your neighbour is quite a challenge.”

    I responded with:

    “Yes, very good point. It sure is easier but are you really actually helping. Also that way – only people in war zones, disaster areas etc get help and not the people next door who might need it just as much.”

  3. I cried when I saw it on TV and so as Obama. NRA(National Riffle Association) is the most fear organization in Washington, D.C. There are 200 millions gun floating around in the U.S. Agree with you that Obama must do something about Gun Control, there is nothing for him to lose but gain the legacy.
    Basilseven

  4. Today, you gave us a very thoughtful [thought-provoking] post.

    The wife and I were riveted to the news outlets, both TV and on-line. We live in southern California, and are thousands of miles away from the havoc and suffering at Sandy Hook in Connecticut. Like in Australia, we greatly treasure our young ones, and the senseless loss of so many of them devastates & outrages us all.

    I don’t know if Pres Obama can craft some landmark school safety measure, or gun safety measure. I mostly blame Adam Lanza [the gunman] for the destruction he brought to Sandy Hook. If he was determined to hurt children [and, at this point, we don’t know his motivation] he could have driven his truck through the playground at recess, or burned down the auditorium, or made a DIY bomb and targeted a school bus. We don’t have a national health care system, and most mentally impaired folks live in mainstream America, without any monitoring. Most of the mentally impaired take their meds, and probably function at the “well-enough” level.

    America was born with a gun-friendly culture. There are over 300 million people here, and about as many firearms [a few hundred million; no one knows exactly how many]. The mentally impaired are ALREADY prohibited from having legal access to firearms. Responsible gun owners ALREADY are required to safely secure their weapons [Lanza’s mother, Nancy, should have stored her firearms in a gun safe, if she knew or suspected that her son was mentally fragile]. Schools are ALREADY gun-free zones.

    I certainly have no special insights,or ready-made solutions. Even though it seems as if these horrible shooting occur every month now in America, they really are rare, and most school children are safe with normal precautions [scant comfort to the grieving parents at Sandy Hook, of course].

    Sorry for the crazy-long post. We very much enjoy your adventures in the village, and are glad you’re feeling better.

    Regards from Ken C.

    • Hey Andy & Ken,

      Chicago and Washington D.C. have a ban on handguns and these cities have murder rates (by handguns) that are among the highest in the USA. Illegal drugs are plentiful on the streets of the largest cities. Here you can ban things but the ban doesn’t prevent those things from ending up in the hands of people who intend to use them. The culture must change first. We have many problems here and politicians seem to make things worse. You can look at our schools for evidence of this.

      Bob

      • Hi Ken, Basislseven, Bob and Bulldog.

        Thank you all for your well constructed thoughts about Gun control, it made for interesting reading. My post was not really about what happened in America. It was about how I processed it compared to the locals in my village. About how upset I got when realistically there is nothing I can do about it. Questioning my rising stress over that situation when I feel that I should totally ignore that (by now watching the news) and concentrate my worry and help on those closest to me. Would still like peoples thoughts about that.

  5. was that you I saw at the Sunee Shopping Mall on Fri 7th afternoon with Jacob?

    back to the subject. Obama wont touch it. nor will any president. it would be potitical suicide, last term or not. the NRA is the largest single interest group in the US and have massive influence.

    • Hi Bulldog, yes it must have been. Was it on the ground floor and was I looking sick and run down while waiting for my wife and one daughter to come back from the toilet? Did I see you? You should have said hello!

  6. Yes, it was a terrible tragedy. But just last week, much closer to home, over 1000 people died in a cyclone in the Philippines. Developing countries tragedies seem to be less than those in the USA.

  7. And even closer to home… http://www.news.com.au/world/kids-teachers-killed-in-school-and-teahouse-attacks-in-thailand/story-fndir2ev-1226534888633
    Lots of guns in Thailand, and not just in the south. However here we are all more likely to be killed by a stranger in a road accident, which is really not much different from being killed by a stranger with a gun! Here the stranger might be one of those fun-loving villagers. After a few drinks too many he jumps on his motorbike and then…
    Some years ago a friend of mine (one of the world’s leading authorities on deer farming) was killed in Kanchanaburi. Driving along the road in his Suzuki jeep. A motorbike suddenly came out of a side road right in front of him. John swerved but hit the motorbike and then a tree. Both were killed. One of us or our loved ones could be next.

  8. Belinda Letchford

    Andrew, your post is very good and I think it is a distraction to talk about gun control (once again an issue over there that doesn’t really affect us!! ironically!) The issue that needs to touch everyone’s heart, and I see it is touching yours, is where should my passions be focused, where is my neighbour and what am I doing to show love towards them. Good questions.

    I often think of our neighbours here in Kununurra vs programmes that enable us to help kids overseas. Unfortunately there are no such programmes to help the kids in my town be safe, be fed and go to school. I’m not really one for programmes, but they do help us do something and yet, often without getting involved. Showing love does mean getting involved. It is a challenging thought.

    I often think the problem is so big, where would one start. Maybe that is a cop out.

    As for your question to stop reading international news I’m not so sure about that. Your question implies one or the other. Not sure it needs to be. I think it is a part of our culture to see the whole world – and I think the tears we’ve cried for the families in America, are tears that we need to spend. For God so loved the whole world. But I think knowing what is going on, feeling love and empathy for those who hurt, and then spending our energies being angry may well be a distraction from doing something today for your neighbour.

    • Thanks Belinda for your well thought out reply. You know me well and know my love affair for the news and all things media so I don’t want to give it up – I just need to put it into perspective a little more. No more feeling angry about it – use that attitude for my real neighbours!
      Speaking of which I was woken by a text this morning from Australia with a request for direct help for a friend and neighbour who is hurting at the moment. My first reaction was ‘ermmmmm I’m not really sure if I can/should’ and then suddenly I remembered what i had written and my answer quickly changed to a ‘yes, of course!’

  9. Belinda Letchford

    As you process this, remember this is a heart lesson that your girls need to hear from their dad. Maybe not just now as your are processing but as you come to a place, where your passion for your neighbour is clear, they need to hear their fathers heart.

    • Yes, excellent point. I talked with Seerung about it this morning and will pick my time to talk to the girls about it. I need to be very careful how I word things so that Ariya does not get all worried and upset! Marisah on the other hand…… 🙂

  10. i say “I” saw you but in actual fact my wife saw Jacob and recognised him from the photo. i thought it was you but wasnt 100 % sure. yes you did look a bit cheesed off. thoroughly enjoyed our time in the village but sadly back in the UK now. was amazed how quickly our daughter picked up the language. she loves village life and is much missed.

    • A bit cheesed off – yes that would sum it up nicely! Within 1 hour of you seeing me I was in my hotel bed with a raging fever! So glad you had a good time here and yes it is amazing how the young ones pick up a language – make sure you wife keeps teaching it at home!

  11. I enjoyed and appreciated hearing your thoughts on this horrible event. I am very much on the same page, in terms of focusing my energy on the children/ other people around me. There are some huge things that need to change (for me, it’s really all about the side effects of anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications, which often produce violence and suicide) but in terms of what I can do with my energy, it is not well-spent reading everything that is written up about the incident. In fact, doing so keeps me from being able to sleep at night or function in the daytime, so that is really not going to help me love my daughter better in practical terms, or to be available as a loving neighbor to the people in my daily life. I do grieve with those families, and it is important to know the issues facing my country today. But there is also a ton of energy being poured out in vain– I am trying to channel my emotions into acting with kindness and compassion to those around me.

    • Hi Ariana,
      Thanks for leaving me your thoughts. I just love your blog (http://and-here-we-are.blogspot.com.au/) and find my self agreeing with basically everything you write, and you write so well – I wish I could convey my thoughts and feelings as well as you do.

      As to your comment here – I like what you say about ‘energy being poured out in vain’. Spot on!

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