“Dying isn’t the sad thing, what’s sad is not living intensely” – 90-year-old man to cancer survivor, Albert Espinosa.
We were recently watching footage on BBC Worldwide of runners in New York disappointed at the cancellation of the Marathon. Some were entirely negative and complained bitterly, but others took a different view – they intended to catch a ferry to Staten Island and offer their help to residents clearing up after the recent super-storm which hit the US east coast.
This action seemed so creative and positive, but not only that – it shows how people’s hearts can open to those in need and distress.
The same thing happened in Australia when huge floods hit south-east Queensland and the city of Brisbane. People turned up in droves to help clear up and clean out houses which had been swamped by the Brisbane River.
I also read of a bloke in China, Mr Chen, who watches out for those intending to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge into the river below. He intervenes where possible, talks the people out of suicide and supports them as they try to sort out their problems and get on with their lives.
One of the people interviewed had decided to commit suicide as his daughter had had leukaemia, he couldn’ t pay the bills, and if he was dead his debt would be cancelled, allowing his family to survive financially. He had been talked out of the suicide and couldn’t praise Mr Chen enough for counselling him and providing financial support out of his own pocket to help the man and his family get their finances sorted out.
And similarly, Don Ritchie died recently in Australia who saved countless lives, possibly hundreds, by talking to people readying themselves to jump of The Gap, a high cliff in Sydney notorious for suicides. He had no formal counselling but he would gently talk to people, offer support, and take them back to his house for tea and refreshment. He received a “local hero” award but was always modest about his achievements in supporting people in need.
A theatre group is putting on plays, with the entrance fee being donations of food items which are then distributed to local charity and relief organisations. Small co-operative shops are also being set up, local currency schemes, food parcels being organised from goods donated by various people, soup kitchens being established by volunteers. Across the nation other mutually supportive initiatives are growing as people discover the power of taking action themselves and building alternatives ways of organising themselves and helping themselves and others.
I also find it interesting that, when you start a topic such as this, similar details surface. In our local North Cyprus newspaper, there was a report of a Spanish man, Albert Espinosa, who battled cancer for years as a young child, eventually losing his leg. It has inspired him to let people know that life is important and he tries to connect with what he calls “yellow people”, people he believes can be friends or strangers who briefly enter our lives and can make us feel special and change our life a lot or a little. He aims to make a point of talking to people he doesn’t know wherever he goes and says he generally gains from the encounters and aims for at least one a month.
I mentioned it on Facebook but when I was leaving the Royal Festival Hall in London in October I bumped into a young man who asked me if he could shake my hand. I said: “Certainly. And I’ll give you a hug if you like.” He looked pretty gobsmacked but agreed and I have to tell you it felt great to hug a complete stranger and give him a peck on the cheek. I could feel my heart centre radiating love to this young man with his life ahead of him and simply wishing him well. Amazing experience for me, not quite sure how he took getting hugged by a strange 65-year-old with bright purple hair but hopefully he recovered okay!
Why am I writing this? Because so much is made these days of individualism, but when the chips are down, it’s community that counts. It happens all around the world, no one country has a o on community, kindness and caring. I do hope though that the lessons Greek people are learning spread worldwide – when you stand on your own two feet, feel compassion for others and open your hearts to support each other, a new kind of society is being built, one that eschews greed and instead embraces loving kindness.