Among the many casualties, the war has left many children orphaned and now that it’s over, many families remain desperately poor and unable to feed their children. The occupying powers are holding the country in a vice-like grip. They want to squeeze their former enemies ‘until the pips squeak’. Some in this country are being accused of being unpatriotic because they are highlighting the suffering the war has caused.
No, this is not Iraq. This was the situation 85 years ago today when the public meeting was held which launched the Save the Children Fund. Eglantyne Jebb had been fined under the Defence of the Realm Act for publishing and distributing the leaflets ‘A Starving Baby’ and ‘Our Blockade has Caused This’, but the leaflets had the desired effect and money to bring relief to the children of post-war Europe began to flow in to the organisation which she and her sister, Dorothy Buxton (pictured), founded.
In the distress we feel as we hear reports from Iraq at the moment, it may be encouraging to know that from other similar, horrific situations, something good has eventually emerged. It’s part of the Christian belief in God’s resurrection power that goodness and love are not defeated by suffering and violence. Yet It’s not easy to see anything positive in the present situation in that country.
Perhaps today our thoughts might focus on the likelihood that, at various levels of significance, good things as yet unknown will emerge from what’s happening in Iraq. If we can have that trust, it is more likely to happen.
After 24 years of community service, the Quakertown Optimists Club is calling it quits. They held their last meeting last week. The Optimist Club is an international organization that formed in 1920. The Quakertown chapter started in 1980 with 35 members, but dropped to 15 members this year. The sporting and scholastic activities they provided for children no longer seemed to meet current needs, and fewer kids were getting involved so the members have decided to call it a day. "I feel sad," said club president Bernard Kensky.
It would be sad if the world ever did give up on optimism. There is more danger that it might if, as Mr Kensky and his friends discovered, it becomes too divorced from reality. An optimist rises above the limited vision of the purely pragmatic but with feet firmly on the ground. Perhaps the apostle Paul
had it about right when he talked about hope. A positive attitude to the future, he said, should include an anticipation of what is at the moment only a rich and hardly imaginable possibility. But it finds its source in a realistic assessment of what we’ve already experienced, what he called the first fruits of the Spirit.
Perhaps today, whether the source of our hope comes from God or from elsewhere, it’s worth developing an approach to the future which affirms its rich possibilities. But disappointment is less likely if our optimism is based, not just on what we long for in the future, but on what we know to be true now.
Sixty years ago this weekend, reports began to filter through of Hitler’s suicide. Field Marshall Lord Alanbroke wrote in his diary: After longing for this news for the last six years…when I finally listened to it I remained completely unmoved. Why? I do not know. ….I think I have become so weary with the continual strain of the war that my brain is numbed, and incapable of feeling intensely.
For all of us the battle to defeat evil seems a long one. Whether it’s in our places of work, in what the Election Campaign is revealing about the current state of the UK, in our response to Global poverty, or in the deeper recesses of our own lives, we are conscious of much that needs changing if what’s wrong is to be overcome and injustice defeated. The length of the battle can numb our commitment to it.
The apostle Paul offers hope as an antidote to such weariness. It is a hope which inspires even though we do not yet see what we long for. But it is a hope which is inspired by what we do see. Those whose bravery and commitment are undaunted and who achieve small victories in the long battle encourage us.
This anniversary of the death of Hitler is passing almost unnoticed. It is the gallantry and courage of those who fought against him we have been remembering in a series of anniversaries over the last few months, including this last week, celebration even of a failure, the one at Gallipoli. Perhaps if we tire of our struggle to create a better world, it’s worth remembering the determination and resolve of many throughout the world who, often in small ways, are giving us hope of ultimate victory.
A Japanese firm has come up with a machine that it says can give you the dreams you want. The device, called a 'dream workshop', gives stressed out people a chance to escape - at least in their dreams. Before nodding off, the would-be dreamer is supposed to look at a photo of what he or she wants to dream about and then record the story-line on the £77 machine.
Using the voice recording as well as lights, music and aromas, the machine stimulates sleepers during periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and helps them direct their own dreams. “It has worked for quite a number of people,” said a spokesperson.
The Yumemi Kobo, as it’s called, may have relieved some stress but it can’t change anything in the real world.
There are, however, other sorts of dream and other types of stimulation which can. The hopes we have for our own futures, and for that of others and the world, can give us renewed energy to help bring them to reality. We can choose to stimulate those hopes and dreams by what we read, who we admire and by other deliberately chosen influences.
For Christians, the Bible is an important source for our dreams. There’s the Old Testament prophets who foresaw a just society; there’s Jesus talking about the poor inheriting the earth; and at the end of the Bible, there’s its last book with a vision of an end to mourning and crying and pain. The Bible is a resource packed with material to stimulate our dreams and encourage action.
Today, let our own longing for better times, and the visions and inspiring actions of others, direct our dreams. That’s a “dream workshop” that can make a real difference.
John Lennon’s Imagine is apparently Britain’s most popular song lyric. The words offer a picture of a world of equality and peace. They are rather sentimental, perhaps trite. The sense of hope and optimism must have had a wide appeal for the song to have won the vote but is it pie in the sky?
Imagination is a powerful tool. The capacity to see beyond the present to a different kind of life for the world or to see how our own personal future might fruitfully unfold, can give energy and hope. When the eyes of our imagination get a glimpse of what might be, we get drawn into the process of making it happen. When our horizons are limited to the immediate situation, we can feel very stuck.
The song challenges us to dream. Let’s take time to do that today. From where we are now, personally or at work or as the human race, to dream dreams of how things might be better. Not all that we hope for will become reality but without some picture of where we hope to arrive, we might never start the journey. We will need our minds to work out the best route but if our imaginations have played their part, we are already on the road.
To see the lyrics of the song, please click here
An Austrian teacher has translated the words of Europe’s official anthem into Latin. But apparently his attempt to offer lyrics all can accept has little hope of being succesful. At present the original German words of the Ode to Joy are not used when the anthem is played to avoid upsetting speakers of the other 19 of Europe’s 20 official languages. A great deal of hard, detailed work, of imaginative leadership, and perhaps of trying a different approach, will be required before the prophesy in the Ode’s words is fulfilled:
These our nations once divided
Now your magic spells unite,
Where your wing does beat around them
Brotherhood and love delight.
With a kiss bestowed on millions
Embraced in fraternity,
Let us build a world of union
And peace for all humanity.
....May 7th 1824.....It was 180 years ago today that Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, from which the music of the anthem comes, was first performed. Beethoven, completely deaf and unable to conduct, nevertheless stood and followed the score. The orchestra finished playing without him realising and a singer had to turn him towards the audience so that he could see their rapturous applause. He never heard the result of almost ten years work on the symphony, which included over 200 rejected versions of the theme.
Sometimes our hopes for a world of unity and harmony seem as though they will never be achieved. We may put in painstaking work, and the kind of exertion that can only be sustained by a vision of what might be, but they seem to create little progress. It may be that it will be other people, not us, who will reap the benefit of our labours. But even if there are numerous false starts, the goal of creating the joy of a more harmonious world is worth the struggle.