People are fundamentally good. Irish people in particular respond magnificently to the needs of their fellow human beings. According to the World Giving Index (WGI) Ireland is among the top ten most charitable nations in the world, ranking fourth in 2014 when the country was still in the grip of austerity measures and deep recession.
So when I see the latest example of extreme human suffering on my TV screen I’m able to take heart though often my first instinct is to switch off, or change the channel to ease my discomfort. And then I pause and think – no, changing channels is not an option. I may not be able to rescue every fatherless baby, comfort every maimed soldier, sympathise with the suffering mothers of every dead child, but the least I owe them is that I bear witness to their suffering and not snuff them out with the touch of a button.
It makes me ask questions though, questions about the world we have created, about human life and human nature, about the future of humankind.
What is our true nature as members of the human family? Do we have a life’s purpose? And if so, what is it? Is it just to make more money, have a better house, a bigger car? What about social justice, not just for me and my neighbours but for people everywhere in the world? How can that be achieved? What is the relationship between me and that crying mother on the TV, that traumatised child? Where does love come into it – not romantic love but that burning love for humanity that won’t let go even when the morning news has us in tears as we eat our porridge? Where does God come into it all?
I may not be able to rescue every fatherless baby, comfort every maimed soldier, sympathise with the suffering mothers of every dead child, but the least I owe them is that I bear witness to their suffering and not snuff them out with the touch of a button.
What I trust is that there are answers for every question, but first we have to ask the question. As some things around us disintegrate and change I see hope in the kindness, generosity and good nature of people.
Truly, there are more answers than questions. We just have to find it in ourselves to first ask the questions and then work together honestly to find the answers.