The shocking photos of the “Woolwich butchers” with their hands soaked in the blood of the poor soldier they had just hacked to death, has been repeatedly shown by all media outlets. There have been other pictures, though less widespread, of three ladies who have been referred to as the “Angels of Woolwich” confronting these men. These women, without regard to the dangers they were subjecting themselves to, stayed by the side of the dead man; with one of them praying for him.
The first time I saw the picture of one of the women talking with the killers, I must admit I really feared for her safety. However, as I read more about the women, it became clear why they acted the way they did: empathy. According to the UK newspaper, the Telegraph, the son of Mrs. Donnelly, one of the “Angels” said his mum did what she did because “that could have been me there on the ground.” As a true mother, she paid no heed to her safety, but thought of how to comfort the dying young man, who could have been her son, but for grace.
The ladies must have realized the dangers they exposed themselves to, after all the killers were still holding the murder weapons and the attack was very barbaric, yet they demonstrated courage even in the face of fear.
I wonder how many times we all have been held back from doing the right thing by fear. Fear can be a good force; it can protect us from danger, but it can also prevent us from carrying out a task because of the risks involved. I remember an incident that happened a few years ago when I visited Calabar. I had gone to a fast food eatery and on my way out of the place, some street children came begging for money. I must add here quickly that these children had been labeled witches by their family, tortured, and sent away. As I tried to give them some money, the lady who was with me quickly tried to stop me. She told me the ‘child witches’ would harm me for helping them. She screamed at them and constantly muttered prayers to wade off the evil she assumed they carried. I was dumbfounded because she is a very good and religious woman, who also has kids as young as those ‘child witches’.
However, she became blind to the suffering of those unfortunate kids, who could have been hers but for grace, because of her fear. Did I help the little kids? Yes I did, and went on to volunteer at an orphanage that housed some of them.
Like the lady in my story, most of us are wonderful people, but we find it difficult to show empathy because of the risks involved. We think of the “What-If’s”, the dangers that might occur, and then we decide against doing the right thing. I’ve heard stories of people driving past accident victims, too busy to help or too afraid of the trouble they would get into for helping. I wonder if they would do the same if the victim was a loved one.
Sometimes the fear that holds us back is not the fear of eminent danger, but the fear of doubt and the fear of “what will people say?” We really want to help, but do not want to take initiative, we would rather just wait to follow whoever leads. In the course of waiting for the right time, or the right person to follow, it becomes too late to help anyway. Would we want to be treated that way if the tables were turned? Wouldn’t we want someone to just do something to help us?
Other times we exonerate ourselves from helping because we are not rich enough, we are still unemployed, still unmarried, too busy…etc. We make up all these excuses because we feel there is a perfect time for helping or that it is the duty of the rich, or the old, or some other person. We become critical when we hear that a celebrity or a religious leader acquired expensive gadgets, instead of using the money to help the poor. We refuse to pay attention to those who roam our streets, begging for help. We forget that the blessings we enjoy came to us not because we are better than the destitute, but by grace. .
We don’t need to be rich before we can help others; remember if we are not faithful in little, we will not be faithful in much. We can help by demonstrating different non-financial acts of kindness: by becoming volunteers at charity organizations, by speaking kindly and listening to others, by mentoring disadvantaged kids, by using our skills to benefit others, by visiting the sick, by treating our housemaids as our own children, etc. There are endless ways we can support each other without spending money. In terms of financial support, I think it is better to support a poor family instead of making huge donations to pastors and imams who are already rich, especially those who do not have active charity missions.
As a Christian, I believe the most important thing to God is the way we treat others. The Golden Rule states that we are to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Our neighbor doesn’t have to belong to the same tribe, religion, social class, etc. Our neighbor is any human being in need of help around us. Just like Gandhi rightly said, if we cannot put ourselves in the shoes of others, then we are not religious, no matter the number of times we flood our churches and mosques or recite doctrines and prayers.
Are there rewards for helping those in need? You bet! But rather than seek the rewards, I think our attitude towards a needy person should be “that could have been me”, and just help. As we do that, regardless of the uncomfortable stares from people and the fears from within us, I have no doubt that we will experience great and priceless joy. Indeed, “it is more blessed to give than to receive”
Photo Credit: latoshalove.blogspot.com
Theresa Omoronyia is a trained business analyst and has degrees in Management Science and Computer Science. She lives in Glasgow, UK with her husband and son. Theresa enjoys being with people and her passion is to help those who are hurting. She has worked as a volunteer in orphanages, and as a peer educator and music tutor to secondary school students in Nigeria.