Friday, 24 December 2010

The Good Samaritan

I want to wish each one of you a very happy Christmas and a New Year full of peace and solid spiritual achievement. Thank you so much for reading my blog so regularly during the past twelve months.


I read this true story on the BBC News website today and I want to share it with you all. It shows that no matter how belligerant, anti-social or unresponsive an individual may be, if we listen to their story, we can usually do something to help.

One act of kindness that befell British writer Bernard Hare in 1982 changed him profoundly. Then a student living just north of London, he tells the story to inspire troubled young people to help deal with their disrupted lives.

The police called at my student hovel early evening, but I didn't answer as I thought they'd come to evict me. I hadn't paid my rent in months.

But then I got to thinking: my mum hadn't been too good and what if it was something about her?

We had no phone in the hovel and mobiles hadn't been invented yet, so I had to nip down the phone box.

I rang home to Leeds to find my mother was in hospital and not expected to survive the night. "Get home, son," my dad said.

I got to the railway station to find I'd missed the last train. A train was going as far as Peterborough, but I would miss the connecting Leeds train by twenty minutes.
I bought a ticket home and got on anyway. I was a struggling student and didn't have the money for a taxi the whole way, but I had a screwdriver in my pocket and my bunch of skeleton keys.

I was so desperate to get home that I planned to nick a car in Peterborough, hitch hike, steal some money, something, anything. I just knew from my dad's tone of voice that my mother was going to die that night and I intended to get home if it killed me.

"Tickets, please," I heard, as I stared blankly out of the window at the passing darkness. I fumbled for my ticket and gave it to the guard when he approached. He stamped it, but then just stood there looking at me. I'd been crying, had red eyes and must have looked a fright.

"You okay?" he asked.

"Course I'm okay," I said. "Why wouldn't I be? And what's it got to do with you in any case?"

"You look awful," he said. "Is there anything I can do?"

"You could get lost and mind your own business," I said. "That'd be a big help." I wasn't in the mood for talking.

He was only a little bloke and he must have read the danger signals in my body language and tone of voice, but he sat down opposite me anyway and continued to engage me.

"If there's a problem, I'm here to help. That's what I'm paid for."

I was a big bloke in my prime, so I thought for a second about physically sending him on his way, but somehow it didn't seem appropriate. He wasn't really doing much wrong. I was going through all the stages of grief at once: denial, anger, guilt, withdrawal, everything but acceptance. I was a bubbling cauldron of emotion and he had placed himself in my line of fire.

The only other thing I could think of to get rid of him was to tell him my story.
"Look, my mum's in hospital, dying, she won't survive the night, I'm going to miss the connection to Leeds at Peterborough, I'm not sure how I'm going to get home.
"It's tonight or never, I won't get another chance, I'm a bit upset, I don't really feel like talking, I'd be grateful if you'd leave me alone. Okay?"

"Okay," he said, finally getting up. "Sorry to hear that, son. I'll leave you alone then. Hope you make it home in time." Then he wandered off down the carriage back the way he came.

I continued to look out of the window at the dark. Ten minutes later, he was back at the side of my table. Oh no, I thought, here we go again. This time I really am going to rag him down the train.

He touched my arm. "Listen, when we get to Peterborough, shoot straight over to Platform One as quick as you like. The Leeds train'll be there."

I looked at him dumbfounded. It wasn't really registering. "Come again," I said, stupidly. "What do you mean? Is it late, or something?"

"No, it isn't late," he said, defensively, as if he really cared whether trains were late or not. "No, I've just radioed Peterborough. They're going to hold the train up for you. As soon as you get on, it goes.

"Everyone will be complaining about how late it is, but let's not worry about that on this occasion. You'll get home and that's the main thing. Good luck and God bless."
Then he was off down the train again. "Tickets, please. Any more tickets now?"
I suddenly realised what a top-class, fully-fledged doilem I was and chased him down the train. I wanted to give him all the money from my wallet, my driver's licence, my keys, but I knew he would be offended.

I caught him up and grabbed his arm. "Oh, er, I just wanted to…" I was suddenly speechless. "I, erm…"

Bernard was desperate to see his mother, Joyce

"It's okay," he said. "Not a problem." He had a warm smile on his face and true compassion in his eyes. He was a good man for its own sake and required nothing in return.

"I wish I had some way to thank you," I said. "I appreciate what you've done."
"Not a problem," he said again. "If you feel the need to thank me, the next time you see someone in trouble, you help them out. That will pay me back amply.

"Tell them to pay you back the same way and soon the world will be a better place."
I was at my mother's side when she died in the early hours of the morning. Even now, I can't think of her without remembering the Good Conductor on that late-night train to Peterborough and, to this day, I won't hear a bad word said about British Rail.
My meeting with the Good Conductor changed me from a selfish, potentially violent hedonist into a decent human being, but it took time.

"I've paid him back a thousand times since then," I tell the young people I work with, "and I'll keep on doing so till the day I die. You don't owe me nothing. Nothing at all."

"And if you think you do, I'd give you the same advice the Good Conductor gave me. Pass it down the line."

Saturday, 11 December 2010

A Life Without Television

As I watched with growing revulsion, the so called “peaceful demonstration” of students in London protesting against increases in fees for higher education and I remember all the violent terrorist acts around the globe, I began to wonder. What is the main objective of most demonstrators and terrorists?

The answer is abundantly clear, to obtain maximum publicity via television. This publicity is designed in both instances to provoke fear. In the case of demonstrators, fear amongst legislators of the side-effects within society of proposed new legislation and where terrorists are concerned fear amongst the general population. The fear in both instances leads to reaction on the part of the legislature. Any action based upon fear is likely to be ill-thought-out and almost certainly lead to a worsening rather than an improving situation.

The target of these comments of mine is not so much the organisers of protests or the master-minds of terrorism (though I have nothing but contempt for both) but television production companies and their journalists. I accept without reservation that television is such an important part of the fabric of society these days that under no circumstances would the majority of people be willing to contemplate its disappearance.

This fact in itself should give the television companies and their journalists pause for thought. Their pictures and the views of their commentators are received in the privacy of people’s homes. Many people are still uncritical of the views of journalists on most subjects other than part politics, so the power wielded by television over the thinking of the general population is enormous. What a responsibility! A responsibility which it seems to me is shrugged off by the use of phrases such as, “we have a duty to report life as it is”.

I agree with the sentiment expressed in this phrase but object most strongly to the manner in which television producers and their owners interpret it. It seems to me they are interested purely in what looks most dramatic (interpret this as ‘most violent’ if you will) on our TV screens. There seems little desire for objectivity in their reporting, they merely accept the ‘hand outs’ and press releases of the terrorists and organisers of demonstrations that turn violent without pausing to question the accuracy or fairness of their contents.

I am forced to conclude that were there no television cameras, the number of ‘peaceful demonstrations’ would decline dramatically, as also would the number of terrorist outrages. Demonstrations and terrorist violence are designed to force ordinary people to accept the bigoted and usually totally unrepresentative views of tiny minorities. Because we are foolish enough to report their statements so uncritically, we bring unreasonable pressure on the decent peace-loving majority of the communities these extremists say they represent. We end up cutting the ground from beneath the feet of the moderates. The more we do it, the more extremists are encouraged, which leads to greater and greater use of violence and terror to support their unrepresentative views.

We cannot allow this to continue surely? Something must be done. It is no use hoping “they” will do something for they won’t. If the TV companies and their owners and journalists are unwilling to act responsibly, one option remains to us. The “on/off” switch! Switch off our TV sets! Refuse to watch news programmes and so-called current affairs programmes. Bearing in mind the number of 24 hour news programmes that have to find ‘news’ of some kind to report continuously, one suspects there is sometimes a very creative interpretation of what constitutes ‘news’ to the producers of these programmes.

In my view the message would soon be received and a sea change would take place in TV reporting. News programmes would be cut back severely, extremists would have to depend more upon reasoned argument to persuade people of their points of view and we would all be freed to take more exercise and spend time talking to one another instead of being glued to news programmes.

I know it is useless to pretend we could ever achieve a future ‘life without television’ but we all need to think a great deal more about the impact it has upon our basic freedoms. Television of itself, just like the wheel, fire, atomic energy and gunpowder, poses no threat but the use to which it is put by unscrupulous people both in the so-called ‘free world’ and elsewhere, is a huge threat to human advancement and happiness. It is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity – a challenge to use our inventions responsibly and not to further narrow, self-interest. How we respond to the challenge as individuals will determine what kind of world our grand-children and our great grand-children will inherit.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Whale

Another beautiful (True) story that it gives me much pleasure to pass on. Blessings to you all - Lionel

If you read a recent front page story of the San Francisco Chronicle, you would have read about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth.

A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farallon Islands (outside the Golden Gate ) and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her.

They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently around as she was thanking them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth said her eyes were following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

May you, and all those you love, be so blessed and fortunate to be surrounded by people who will help you get untangled from the things that are binding you.

And, may you always know the joy of giving and receiving gratitude.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Wooden Bowl

Friends, my apologies for not posting anything lately. My excuse is I am working on a new book. I received the following from a friend today and I want to share it with you because it is so true and so touching, Lionel

I guarantee you will remember the tale of the Wooden Bowl tomorrow, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now.

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson.

The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.
The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and
failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor.
When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.
'We must do something about father,' said the son. 'I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.'

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner.

There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner.
Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor.

He asked the child sweetly, 'What are you making?' Just as sweetly, the boy responded,

'Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up. '

The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks.. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.
That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table.

For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

On a positive note, I've learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things:
a rainy day,the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as making a 'life.'
I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands.You need to be able to throw something back sometimes.

I've learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But, if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you. I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. I've learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch -- holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.