When we stop to look at all the kindness and caring in the world, it doesn’t take long to realise that those who threaten our communities can never count on lasting victory when they take on the human spirit, writes Clodagh Finn.
I LOVE the way Facebook can take the things ordinary people say and do and show that, very often, there is something truly extraordinary in the everyday.
Take this post from a friend of a friend: “Just thinking that in this last week I’ve seen my various friends survive the attack in Nice, or celebrate their daughter’s 16th birthday or their own, relax by a lake… be a proud parent, enjoy the good weather, post a recipe… attend a book launch, go to the theatre, look amazing, be hilariously funny, be political, walk for miles, edit a book, support animal rights, and so much more.”
It made it stop and take some time to “just think” myself.
In the last week, we’ve heard of ordinary people in France texting their friends – yet again – to find out if they were alive or dead.
We’ve also heard how, despite the Bastille Day terrorist attack that killed 84 people, those ordinary people got up to get on with the next day.
One of them, Olivier Bonnel, is on a mission to find the man who stopped to help him when the terrorist’s truck knocked him from his wheelchair on the Promenade des Anglais. He wants to thank him for saving his life.
Another, described in regional newspaper ‘Nice Matin’ simply as Franck, an airport worker, explained why he felt compelled to follow the truck on his scooter, slaloming through the carnage, in an attempt to stop it.
He and his wife had been on their way to get ice cream but when he saw what was happening, he told his wife to get off and took chase.
In Turkey, it was ordinary people who tried to stop the army’s coup to oust President Erdogan. They climbed on top of tanks, lodged themselves under them and confronted armed soldiers to put an end to a coup that claimed at least 265 lives.
Now, sadly, some of those same people might themselves be arrested in a widespread post-coup clampdown as the country declares a three-month state of emergency.
At home, thankfully, life is far more peaceful, yet ordinary people carry out hundreds of tiny heroic acts on a daily basis that prove the world – with all its chaos and violence – is still full of wonderful people.
Like the Facebook chronicler above, I’ve been thinking about the inspiring things I’ve seen or heard, directly or indirectly, over the last week.
Here’s a fleeting glimpse of how ordinary people everywhere succeeded in bringing a touch of the extraordinary to this troubled world in the last seven days.
Last Sunday, the BBC showed ‘One Night in 2012’, recalling how the hugely ambitious opening ceremony of London’s Olympic Games was made possible by the unstinting dedication of volunteers.
At a time when the Rio Games are overshadowed by the Zika virus and the Russian doping scandal, it’s heartened to remember how artistic director Danny Boyle overcame doubt, obstacles and political resistance to co-ordinate the performance of thousands of non-professionals in a dazzling show on July 27, 2012.
Among them, 1,000 people drummed like pros on metal and plastic buckets with drum-sticks covered in tennis balls (real drums would have cost £2m).
Drum coach Mike Dolbear explained that he got hundreds of people to drum in unison by asking them to bang to the rhythm of this phrase: “Play the drum/so your mum/can see you on TV.” Try it, it’s ingenious.
On Monday, on a somewhat smaller and more frivolous scale, a friend made me tea in a ‘best mates’ mug, broke open a fruit cake and gave me a giant bubble wand. We made fabulous big bubbles in the scorching heat of an unseasonably warm July day. Foolishness is completely under-rated.
On Tuesday, a dear friend (and new mother) said she was delighted to see that one of the childcare workers at her local crèche wore the hijab because it meant her young sons would grow up to see that as completely normal.
On Wednesday, a woman in a park helped an older lady in a wheelchair sip a cool drink. Later, she held her hand as she was being pushed around the duck pond. It was one small gesture to show that the care-home scandals don’t tell the whole story.
On Thursday, a friend walked her young dog; a dog that is being trained to help children with special needs. She’ll have to give that beloved pet away at 18 months but, she says, it’s worth it when you see the difference that it makes in the lives of others.
On Friday, pictures of my grand-nephew plopped into my inbox.
His little head was bent over a huge pot. He was making raspberry jam with his granduncle after the pair of them had spent hours in the garden picking the fruit. One for the pot, one for me…
On Saturday, my community gathered outside the local shop with brushes and bin bags to clean up the area. They pulled weeds, gathered rubbish, scraped chewing gum off the ground.
It would be interesting to take a week in the lives of ordinary people in any, or all, of the countries affected by Isis-related attacks to show that decency still thrives everywhere.
And we need to focus on ordinary people because they are the ones bearing the brunt of terrorist violence in the growing list of affected countries.
This year alone, terrorists claiming to be linked to Isis attacked Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Belgium, Yemen, Iraq, the US, Bangladesh, France and Germany.
It’s not entirely true to say the people on the street are not cowed.
In Nice, the mood is sombre and some have said that resilience is fading.
And yet, when tomorrow comes, they’ll get up, let the dog out, flick the kettle on and do some small thing that is heroic in its own way.
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