ANNA BELFRAGE

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Archive for the tag “a helping hand”

The whole world in His hands

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The Holy family, Murillo

Lately, I’ve been pondering the word “Christian”. Not Christian as in “yes, I belong to the Christian faith”, more Christian in “I am a Christian” (with a lot of emphasis on the italicised word) , which, as far as I can tell, means the person in question goes to church regularly and studied his/her bible frequently. This in difference to those who are of the Christian denomination by rote, eg they were baptized as Christians but don’t have their lives revolving around their faith. Now, before I go any further, there are a lot of active Christians out there (some of which I count as dear friends) who are very good people – which is fortunate, seeing as anyone defining themselves as “Christian first” have a lot to live up to.

You see, if a person presents themselves as “Christian”, my expectations on that person are that they will live up to the most basic of Christian tenets, namely charity. These last few days, I see a lot of stuff being presented as being part of “Christian” values, but I see little indication of this being done out of an encompassing, altruistic endeavor. Stopping refugees at the borders has little to do with altruism, far more to do with promoting a “we” and “them” take on the world, as does pushing your own “moral” agenda down the throat of people with fundamentally different beliefs. As does pointing fingers at those among us who refuse to be defined by their gender in everything from who they have sex with to how they dress.

I don’t go to church regularly, nor do I read my bible all that often. I do, however, struggle daily with being a good person, even if at times that means sharing when I don’t want to, helping when I don’t have time. I try. Often, I fail. But I try—hard—to live as per the most important message in the New Testament, namely “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

ehfa-westminster-retablePlease note that others in the above sentence isn’t qualified. It doesn’t say “Do unto other Christians as you would have others do unto you.” Nor does it say “Do unto others who are like you as you would have others do unto you.” It just says “others”, which reasonably must be interpreted as meaning the entire human race. All of us, no matter race, gender or creed. It would seem Jesus really did believe in having the whole world in His hands.

So, now that we’ve established that “others” means others as in stepping-out-of-our-comfort-zone others, maybe we should analyse the rest of the sentence.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. If you slip on a patch of ice and fall, you’d like someone to help you up, right? So it follows that if you see someone slipping, you should hasten forward to pull them back up on their feet. Life is not always a walk in the park. There is plenty of ice out there, metaphorically speaking. One very nasty patch of ice is called war, and at present the world has I don’t know how many millions of people fleeing their homelands and the life they’ve known—not because they want to, but because they have to. They’ve slipped pretty badly, one could say, and as good human beings, and definitely as a Christian, we have an obligation to give them a helping hand. After all, it could be us out there, stuck in a patched tent with UN rations the only thing keeping starvation at bay.

slide1When people are in need, it shouldn’t matter if they’re Muslim or Jewish or Hindu or walk about dyed blue, or wear nothing but a loin cloth. It shouldn’t matter if they’re young or old, if they’re male or female. They need help. It is part of basic decency to offer it.

When some among us choose to live in same-sex relationships, this is not ground for condemnation, no matter what Leviticus might have to say on the matter. By the time Jesus came round, Leviticus was OLD stuff, probably severely outdated even back then. Besides, how on earth can anyone purporting to believe in Jesus condemn someone for loving? A good Christian should, IMO, show toleration and respect. A good Christian should, once again IMO, defend every person’s right to find happiness where they can find it – as long as they do not cause anyone else harm. A good Christian should remember “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” and reflect on the fact that there could come a time when they’re in minority. Surely, they’d want to be respected and tolerated by the surrounding majority who chose to live/believe differently from them, right?

Had He not been resurrected, I think Jesus would have been spinning like a top in the grave, groaning out loud at all the people who take His name in vain. Because that’s what you do if you loudly proclaim yourself a Christian but lack in charity and compassion. Once in heaven, Jesus won’t be all that impressed by hearing about bible-reading and church-going. It’s the actions that count, and He’ll want to know about what you did, how you contributed to alleviate the suffering of those who have little – or nothing at all.

So if you’re going to present yourself as “Christian”, please do some loving. And caring. Be tolerant and supportive. Extend that hand of yours and help, no matter who it is that has slipped on the ice.

hand-20170205_142546Actually, all of this is valid no matter what you might believe in. So let me rephrase: be a GOOD person, okay? Or try to be. The world needs good people—now more than ever. It needs us to care, to defend those who are weaker, to stand up for everyone’s right to be treated with respect. It needs us to show some basic decency and remember that the human condition is a global condition. It needs those of us who’ve attended Sunday school in those distant days of our childhood to hum “black and yellow, red and white, they’re all precious in His sight” and remember that the similarities that bind us are far, far greater than the differences.
You are my brother/sister. Here’s my hand if you need it!

Smile and the world smiles with you

Most of us initiate our conversations with a chirpy “hi, how are you?” The expectation is that the person in question will say, “I’m fine” or potentially downgrade that to an “I’m okay”. After all, we’re not really interested in the health of the person we’ve just encountered, we’re merely following the unwritten codes that apply when we meet someone we know. Should the person in question reply by saying “actually, I’m feeling awful”, we wouldn’t quite know what to say or do. “Oh. Sorry to hear that” could be seen as an invitation to the other person to tell us more – and often we don’t want that. “Really? Too bad, must run” is a tad too callous. Chances are we’ll pretend we haven’t heard – suffering from excessive production of earwax is always a valid excuse. Of course, the person being asked how they are is just as aware of the codes as the person asking. We know it’s not the done thing to start on a whinge, detailing our aches and sorrows, the nightmares that plague us and our panic attacks. No one wants to know – not really. So we hide the shadows within with a bland smile, assuring that acquaintance of ours that everything is fine.

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Liar, liar pants on fire

We lie, people. We lie because it is expected of us – and we do that a lot. Which is why one can go around believing the world is full of happy, successful people, thereby making us feel even more insufficient. Assuming, of course, that we’re not constantly happy and successful. Maybe some of us are – lucky them. Most of us, I suspect, have good days and bad days, and the good days are rarely characterised by walking about in pink euphoria, it’s more along the lines of being days when things work – we don’t miss the bus, we do not screw up at the meeting, we don’t binge on chocolate instead of having lunch, we don’t forget the PTA meeting. Sounds like a great day, right? The world we live in has little use for the unsuccessful, unhappy people. Which is why the correct answer to the “hi, how are you?” question is to smile brightly and say “I’m great! And you?” That way, we can all go on pretending, making life so much easier for all of us. We retreat behind our shiny facades, and only rarely do we share the murkier corners of our soul with anyone. To some extent all this pretence helps. Singing “Always look on the Bright side of Life” does make it easier to cope with a lot of things. Smiling until your cheeks hurt actually ends up fooling you into believing you do have something to smile about. Staring at our reflection in the mirror while muttering little mantras along the lines “you’ll do great! Yay, go get them” can boost our self-esteem. Ergo, lying to ourselves is as effective as lying to others. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve always lied as much. Did stone-age woman give her stone-age man a bright smile and assure him there was nothing wrong when in fact she just couldn’t stand the thought of yet another day in this damned draughty cave?  Or did she throw her head back and howl that she wanted to move south, and she hated the cold, the damp, and by the way she’d missed her period again and how were they to cope with feeding one more child when all he brought back were skinny squirrels? And if she did howl, did he go into male mode and tell her not to worry, that things would sort themselves (men do that a lot when confronted with their unhappy wives. They promise and promise that of course things will be alright. At times, it’s bloody enervating. At others, it is quite encouraging) while suppressing his own internal howl because he couldn’t stand these dark long days and he HATED squirrels.

RokebyVenus

Pep-talking to the mirror (not that she needs it)

I suspect Mr and Mrs Caveman did the same thing we do: they pasted a smile on their face and knuckled down to deal with life. So maybe it’s genetically imprinted in us, to turn a bright face on things. Maybe the ones who howled their angst out loud fell for the natural selection process. The interesting thing in all this is that ALL of us have bad days – even those of us who walk around looking as suave and beautiful as Keira Knightley or Richard Armitage. I recall one day very much in the past when I came upon the most beautiful – and popular – girl in the class, crying her eyes out in the bathroom. We didn’t belong in the same circles, but there’s something about someone crying in front of you that makes it impossible to leave them like that, disconsolate. Anyway, Miss Popular was having one of those days – days in which her insecurities threatened to overwhelm her, when the pressure of always being happy and pretty was just too much (tell me about it! I know just how that feels…) Sitting on the floor, she spilled her guts, and there was plenty of dark stuff going on in her perfectly coiffed head, let me tell you. At the end, she sniffed, wiped her eyes and stood. A couple of minutes before the mirror and the perfect mask was back, blue eyes bright, lips glossy and her hair brushed to a shine. Without as much as a glance in my direction, she stepped back into the world where she was the perfect one. The young lady in question had already learnt not to wear her heart on her sleeve – or rather to only wear the heart people wanted to see.

The divine spark

Something to hold on to

Now and then, we crack, incapable of holding together the front with which we face the world. It’s okay to do so. Of course it is. But should anyone ask you how you’re doing, you should really try and pull youself together – at least sufficiently to mutter “okay, I guess. ” After all, no one outside your most intimate circle wants to know. And honestly, most of us don’t want to share. Not in a world where that old saying “smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone” is still very valid. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing – but I do know that all of us consist of shadow and light, of sadness and joy. We recognise that in each other – and sometimes we will stop and hold out a hand to help someone who is hurting. That, I believe, is what makes us human. That, in my opinion, is how we find the strength to keep on smiling – even if at times we do it through our tears.

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