Looking Beyond the Headline
There was a time when we knew our neighbor next door, when all the people in our home town were known by their first names. A time when the news of a birth or a death, a marriage or a divorce, where sickness and good fortune were passed from mouth to mouth, door to door, until everyone in the area rejoiced in joy or wept in sadness and grief.
When the church bells rang out they told of a soul which had departed, all stopped to ask for whom the bells tolled; the farmer in the field brought his team to a standstill to count the rings, which told the number of years of him or her whom death had taken from us. The housewife baking bread, the carpenter in his shop, the blacksmith at his anvil all counted the message of the bells and knew which soul had departed.
All that was a long time ago, but things have changed. Our new world is much more complex. The printed paper as well as the electronic media have replaced the message of the bells. We know so much more about what is going on in the world. However, distance separates us from the emotional effect of tragic events. We sit quietly and with comfort in our soft chairs as we read the headlines. Half a world away. A volcano has swept away a few dozen villages and thousands of people from the face of the world. We watch starving children die in the streets of Haite, school children die at the hands of a crazed killer, a female attacked, and we casually turn the page of our newspaper or click the remote for the T.V. to catch the scores of the local high school football game or amuse ourselves as make believe-actors perform make-believe tragedies on a make believe stage.
And so we go, informed, enlightened but untouched by the news of the day. So and so is dead, but so what, we hardly knew them. A town we have never been to is sunk under a wall of mud without so much as a bubble rising to tell its drowning. A distant land of remote people whom we've never met starves to death because of a lack of food.
But, there at the scene, where headlines turn to life, some heart is breaking, many tears
are being shed while some feel despair under the weight of the news. Every ink blot of printed news and every inch of the T.V. video is baptized with some parents tears close to where every last sensational image represents the agonies and dying groans of real men and woman.
Let us pray that God will give us the empathy to see beyond the headlines; to comprehend more than names and facts, to translate grief-laden news into human terms, making each casualty our neighbor and every victim our brother or sister.
Pastor Hans Lillejord