Think Beyond The News Headline
There was a time when men and women knew their neighbors when all the people in the little towns knew their neighbors by their first names. There was a time when the news of births and deaths, sickness and good fortune was passed from mouth to mouth, house to house until everyone in the town either reveled in the joys or grieved in sadness.
When the church bells in my little town rang out the news of someone who had passed away, all stopped to ask for whom the bells tolled. People counted the rings which told the age of the departed soul. One ring might have indicated a baby who died in childbirth, a dozen rings could announce the death of a pre-teenager who died in an accident and eighty rings would sadly announce the passing of a revered senior citizen.
That was then and this is now. The brave new world of today is larger and more complex. The newspapers and electronic news have replaced the bell tower. We know more about what happens in our world today, but distance separate us from the emotional effect of tragic events. We sit quietly in our recliners and read the headlines; a short flight away an earthquake has killed hundreds of people, a hurricane has leveled an entire island or an entire city. we watch and see children who are starving or are trying to cling to life as homeless orphans. Then we causally fold the newspaper and take the remote and change the channel of our TV to catch a football game or to see some make-believe actor perform make believe tragedies on make-believe stages.
And as we live on with lots of information but little feeling; so and so is dead but we didn't know him. A town we've never been to has sunk in a sea of mud and a distant nation of people starves to death for lack of bread.
But, there at the scene, where headlines turn to real life, some heart is bleeding under the weight of the news. That heart is close to the misery of death and suffering, close to the place where news is the person next door and where that person's lost life is bathed in some mothers tears. And then, sometimes - sometimes we might wonder if someday we will be the headline tragedy which many will read about but few will care.
May god grant us empathy, empathy which will look beyond the headlines to comprehend more than names and facts and then translate grief-riden news into human times, making each casualty our "neighbor", and every victim, our brother.
Rev. Hans Lillejord