Reminding us that human nature is not all hatred, bigotry and violence, the Samaritans celebrate their 50th anniversary today. Taking their name from the character in the biblical parable who could not pass by even a stranger in need of help, they started as a small group of people on a phone line for desperate people on the edge of suicide to talk to – a safety net for the soul. Now thousands of them help people everyday as do thousands of others in other organisations (step up my good chum Bobby and his wife M.A. who have worked for Childline for many years, my hat is off to them).
Every time the news seems to promise nothing but violent acts by one human against another and even those who follow a religion of love preach hatred I think on these people. I think on the evil scum who attacked the Red Cross last week, or the war lords who would kidnap Oxfam workers in Ethiopia. But every year when stupid leaders decide to drop bombs these are the people who volunteer to move in and pick up the pieces. Often at great risk to themselves as last week so sadly showed. And yet they and tens of thousands like them around the world organise, collect funds and deliver humanitarian relief to their fellow beings. Not for a political goal, most not even for a religious reason, simply because it is the right thing to do.
I give a small amount of money to a few of them every month. I don’t mention this by way of trying to make myself look good, please understand. It’s the smallest I can do and I know it helps a little. I also know while that salves my conscience slightly that I am doing very little – it’s these volunteers who take that money and do the hard work with it, often under horrendous conditions. The fact that the last century of history has given us more human-made horrors on our own kind than all of the other thousands of years of human history put together and yet it has also seen the greatest number of people form nation upon nation volunteering themselves at great pain and risk to heal wounds and save lives is one of the reasons why I sometimes think we’ve still got some hope as a species. It’s just a shame that it is the blood-drenched cheats of the world who get to hold office and not these people.