Looking Backwards…..and Looking Forwards
I suppose that we have all by now been reflecting on the seemingly long list of high profile celebrity deaths that have occurred throughout 2016. Many household names are no longer with us: George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Gene Wilder, Prince and many more that mean different things to different people. And so we reflect on their impact on our cultural heritage and how their unique talents will be missed.
Often when people pass away, we find out more about their true nature. The singer George Michael was one such example; it turns out that he was a secret philanthropist who gave away millions of pounds and volunteered in a homeless project on the understanding that there was no publicity surrounding it. It is, in some respects, an echo of Matthew 6:3-4, where it is written: ‘But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you’.
And so, we are reminded that celebrities, by virtue of their financial status and high profile, can do much good. But there is a negative side to the celebrity culture, where celebrities become the only role models available in a social media-driven culture. Our focus then, becomes myopic and we are unable to see the wider picture, where there are many more people achieving amazing things in the fields of literature, science, medicine, engineering and other fields of human endeavour.
That is why it is essential to look behind the prevailing news stories and the celebrity obituaries to get a better sense of the totality of human talent. For example, the Independent Newspaper, which is only available online now, ran a story recently on a man called Dr. Donald Henderson who died on 19th August; I’m sure you will not have heard of him – I certainly had not. But his contribution to societies across the globe was colossal. Henderson was an epidemiologist who, with colleagues, managed to almost eradicate smallpox, a disease that claimed 300 million lives in the 20th Century alone. His scientific work was an embodiment of Galatians 6:10, where we read: ‘So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone’.
Within the examples of those who have gone before us we can learn much as we embark upon a new year. Yes, 2016 was not a good year in many ways. But on the cusp of a new year, we have an opportunity to refocus, to see the good that is going on all around us and to celebrate those, from whatever walk of life, who enrich our existence and ameliorate suffering in our fellow human beings. And in-so-doing, we can reinvigorate our faith in God, where the future is never in doubt. As the prophet Isaiah wrote: ‘but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’ (Isaiah 40:31).
May 2017 be a year of love, compassion, service and spiritual growth for you and your loved ones.
Every blessing, Scott