When my Dad had a seizure at the Night Noodle Market in Melbourne two years ago, I remember that in the midst of fear and helplessness strangers came and helped. I never learned their names, but they learned my dad’s name as they cared for him.
These were ordinary, everyday people who simply saw a need and then responded to that need.
As the daughter of retired Salvo officers, I well remember many instances when ordinary people stepped up to do extraordinary things to help their fellow humans.
When we were living in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs, the Ash Wednesday bushfires roared through and The Salvation Army was on the front-line, sorting and delivering donations to those in need. Even though I was only nine, I had a role to play as a message courier on my bike after school.
Years earlier, when Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin, as soon as Dad heard the news, he headed north to help, with a car-load of supplies and volunteers from Alice Springs Corps (church). Meanwhile Mum kept the corps (church), men’s hostel and other support services going, despite having to care for two young children.
When the London bombings occurred, my dad was UK chief secretary of The Salvation Army, and again the Salvos responded, feeding emergency services workers and providing counselling services in the city for anyone who needed them.
But I have also learned to be on the receiving end of help, such as that we received when Dad collapsed. A man who just happened to be sitting beside Dad caught him as he fell, helped to get him to the ground safely and then stayed with us “just in case”, until Dad was moved into the ambulance.
Friends of this kind man rang triple 0 and an off-duty nurse materialised to stabilise him until the ambos arrived. The event organiser stood with me while Dad was assessed, only leaving to find some money for me so I could get a taxi to my car and drive to the hospital.
All these ‘helpers’ were carrying out the life lessons we read in the Bible.
“Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day” (Isaiah chapter 58, verses 10–11).
For people struggling with fear and helplessness in the face of tragedy, look out for the helpers. You will find them, and they will remind you that we humans can be good, brave and steady in the face of that fear and helplessness.
And I pray that you will remember we are never truly alone, but are part of a community that steps up to support each other. Thank God for the ‘helpers’.