During the recent ARPA conference, in Christchurch, I was very encouraged by the heart-warming stories of how the people of this beleaguered city responded positively to a series of tragedies.
In the face of devastation from earthquakes and a mass shooting, both Christians and non-Christians stepped up to display sacrificial love, generosity and kindness. Tragedy brought out the best in humanity.
The movie world loves to paint a dim apoplectic view of a world short on resources, tainted with greed, violence and lust. In Christchurch the opposite became true.
In the wake of catastrophe the community reached out and racial divides melted away. Neighbours got to know each other better, many performing acts of kindness and sharing their resources.
Why did these tragedies bring out the best in the people of Christchurch?
Is goodness born within all of us, waiting for the right moment?
Is goodness instinctive or was this response unique to Christchurch?
Wellington’s shining example
In Wellington I have seen another example of inherent goodness. His name is Daniel.
Daniel is often seen sitting outside one of the shops in central Wellington. He has overcome much hardship and disappointment in his life.
As a child he nearly died, twice. In fact, if it weren't for prayer, he probably wouldn't be alive today, but this man has a purpose in life. A traumatic motorbike accident fractured his spine in three places causing constant on-going pain and putting most jobs beyond his reach.
Daniel has also suffered the loss of close members of his family and the murder of a homeless acquaintance. He has fought depression, emotional and physical pain, and has suffered verbal abuse from passers-by who have not stopped to hear his story - many presuming he is on drugs.
In spite of this, Daniel has a cheery word to say to everyone. He returns good for evil; when abuse comes his way he gives a blessing, he empathises with others in adverse circumstances and has a true heart of compassion.
He has been on the streets for over five years and met hundreds of people. He says, “I’ve talked to Japanese, Muslims, English, Asians, Africans many cultures and backgrounds and found good in them all.”
When well-wishers give him food, and many do, if he has anything in excess of his own needs, he gives the rest away to other homeless who have less and are hungry.
Daniel has a gentle spirit, a generous heart and a genuine desire to bestow blessing and love on everyone who passes him by, regardless of their attitude towards him.
He may not realise that to those of us who have stopped to hear his story and to bless him, and he is, in turn, a blessing to us.
In fact, if he was not seen on the streets of Wellington for a period of time, many people would be concerned for his wellbeing.
We can be greatly encouraged by Daniel. Knowing what he has suffered and still suffers on a daily basis - pain, abuse, being misunderstood and rejected, and seeing him give out to others with such love and compassion, inspires me to do the same.
I am not sure if Daniel has a faith but kindness, generosity and love naturally flow from him.
Hope for mankind
The two examples above, one on a community scale and the other from an individual give hope for mankind.
Genesis 1:27 says:
‘So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.’
Later in Genesis 1:31:God says:
‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’
Before sin came into the world everything God made was good.
As a Christian I believe we have a mandate to not only demonstrate goodness, but to bring out the best in others.
This does not need to be complicated and can simply be:
· Encouraging someone
· Valuing and listening to them
· Helping them with something they are not good at
As we build people up we open a door to soften their hearts and for truth to set them free.
‘But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.’
Wayne Graham worked in the media for more than 30 years before leaving to follow a call to set up The Daily Encourager, a values based media showcasing the best of New Zealand society. He has a passion for Jesus, enjoys walking, ball sports, the arts and song writing.