When I woke up yesterday morning to see one of my friends in the US had changed her Facebook profile to a union jack in the shape of a heart, I knew something bad had happened. The caption on her photo Pray for Manchester told me where and BBC news filled in the details.
Thanks to our increasingly connected world, whether it had been Manchester or Madrid, Newcastle or New York, we all know someone who knows someone who lives there. The world feels smaller, and not always in a good way.
As the stories of everyday heroes pour onto social media, the rest of us are left wondering what we can do to help. Sure, we can share the help line numbers (so that our someone who knows someone who knows someone has the information they need) or donate to the fundraising appeals. We can offer our prayers and show our support, but what can we actually do?
And yes, as the Jesus geek in the room, I should be advocating prayer as the most powerful thing we can offer and, logically at least, I know it is. But I still feel like there ought to be something we can actually do.
And it was as I was pondering on the helplessness of it all that a friend shared a post on my Facebook wall. (Thanks Richard. You’re a star and your timing was perfect! 🙂 )
And that’s when it hit me.
When there’s nothing we can actually do, we can still do love.
In a weird way, this sort of feels a little bit like the lead up to Christmas. (If you just rolled your eyes, hear me out.)
You know that feeling you get that everyone’s trying their best to be a little kinder and more loving? Of course it’s without the presents and the magic and the tinsel and with none of the excitement or music, but the love that underpins it all? Yeah, that.
Love is the only antidote to any of this.
Even as the list of confirmed dead children and teenagers grows.
Even when you see name of the daughter, whose mother was on national television appealing for any information about her child’s whereabouts, among the list of confirmed deceased.
Even as your heart feels like it can’t sink any deeper.
Even when you decide the only way you can mentally cope with this right now is to shut down the news and social media.
Even as you then feel guilty for doing so, because you know it’s off the richter scale more impossible and unthinkable for the poor parents and grandparents who’ve lost loved ones.
Even when you feel trite and silly for trying to get your head round any of this and start to wonder if you maybe shouldn’t have even tried.