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.
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.