©2012 Edward C. Lunnon
Sunday 16 December 2012 (Reconciliation Day): 6 years 3 months on …
Physical: Advantage CBD / Mental: Deuce
It’s a joke in our home. Often when something happens somewhere, or a place is shown on TV, then I will say “I’ve been there!”
Yes, I am fortunate to have been to many places around the world.
So when the news started filtering through on Friday evening about the horrific shooting of twenty odd elementary school children and six of their teachers in Connecticut, USA, I could say “I’ve been there!”
Not in Newtown itself, but just some 80km down the road on the coast in Greenwich, Connecticut.
It was the winter of January 1976. I was eighteen and was staying on the east coast of the United States for a while just before I was to return to South Africa after my exchange student year in Oklahoma. I was the guest of members of the Rotary Club of New York City.
I had taken the train from New York’s Grand Central Station to Greenwich, which is an affluent town on the east coast. I spent the weekend and then left from there by limousine for John F Kennedy airport, en route to London, Nairobi, Johannesburg and home to Cape Town.
Greenwich is a town similar to our St Francis Bay – large homes, waterways, canals, boats and the Ocean – not the Indian but the Atlantic Ocean.
Not that there was much water activity then. Being winter in the northern hemisphere, it was cold and snow covered the countryside.
Just up the road was Newtown – a small quiet inland community where wealthier people escape to live outside the rigour of New York City and commute to the metropolis every day. Safe and tranquil – no signs of walls or fences, no discord or safety concerns. Heaven on Earth!
It’s a part of the beautiful New England states of America.
Hardly a place where one would have expected the horrific tragedy of last Friday!
I’ve been there (on the East Coast), but I’ve not been there (on the edge of despair).
One cannot imagine what was going on in that killer’s mind. One can not imagine what is going on in the minds of the people of that community right now.
It’s difficult to put yourself into the place of another if you have not been there yourself. One can sympathise but not empathise.
There is so much unhappiness, despair, death, ill-health, financial woes and hunger in our world.
Just this last week, AlgoaFM ran a promotion whereby listeners were invited to nominate people who they felt qualified to receive R2000 worth of SPAR vouchers because of their needy circumstances.
I nominated a particularly deserving family – but they did not feature in the final awards!
When I heard the circumstances of other families and individuals who received the vouchers, I was astounded by the problems that people who live amongst us have to deal with on a daily basis. My nominated family’s problems paled into insignificance!
Through my weekly radio slot I have also communicated with and met numerous people from all walks of life and with all kinds of issues. It has humbled me and kept me going in my particular circumstances when I have seen that others carry far more baggage than I have to carry.
Sometimes, I can only sympathise; but sometimes I can empathise, because I have been there, too!
People have to deal with job losses. I can empathise – I have been there when I was forced to resign my job in 2002.
People have to deal with storms, floods and fires. I can empathise – just recently I also lost property and my car in the fires and floods that we experienced in the Eastern Cape.
People have to deal with financial woes. They don’t know from where their next meal is coming. I can only sympathise.
People have to deal with inter-personal relationships and sadness. I can empathise.
People have to deal with illness and terminal disease. I can empathise.
People have to deal with the death of parents. I can empathise – I have been there, when I had to deal with the death of my parents at an all too early age.
And people, like those parents in Newtown and Sandy Hook, have to deal with the death of their children. I can only sympathise because I cannot put myself in their place and understand their situation.
The Gospel message – the Good News to the world – that Christians, celebrate at this Christmas time is that God became man and put Himself into our place in the Person of Jesus.
God can say that He was there!
Yes, He was here. He became my substitute. Instead of me dying for my sins, Jesus, sent by God, died in my place, paid the penalty for my sin in full and thus I can be reconciled to God, sins forgiven and have the hope of eternal heaven. That’s the Christian Good News.
So as we celebrate the Good News at this Christmas time, let’s think about the so many people who surround us and who carry unbelievable burdens. Let’s not just think about them – let’s do something for them. Let’s also be able to say to them:
“For you, I was there … at Christmas 2012.”