Thought for the week: Alastair McIntosh gets in on the acts
In the short span of this year so far, we’ve seen the unfolding of one shock to our sense of normality after another: whether it’s been the bush fires in Australia, the record floods in Britain, and now the coronavirus worldwide.
Partly these are what the insurance industry relishes in calling ‘Acts of God’. Well, at least somebody still credits God for something, even if it’s only for the blame.
But partly, if acting true to biblical form, God mirrors back what wittingly or unwittingly we’ve brought upon ourselves.
The fires and floods have probably been made worse by climate change, driven by human impact on the planet. The spread of coronavirus is speeded by globalisation, driven by fossil fuels that enable so much travel.
If the poor can’t afford to stop working when they become sick – or even, in the USA, to get themselves tested effectively for the coronavirus – then the fabric of what we sometimes call ‘the affluent society’ starts to unravel.
That makes me think about the strengths we need as we move into the uncertain future. In 1966, when I was a boy on the Isle of Lewis, we had six weeks with very little food delivered to the island, because the seamen were on strike. We got by – we had the produce of the land, and of the sea – but we had to dig significantly into the resilience of our strong island community. As one local newspaper reporter put it, there was a spirit of ‘Christian generosity’ at play on the island, rather than everyone just looking out for themselves.
Sometimes, then, the worst brings out the best in us. I think of the woman in a burned-out region of Australia, who told Scott Morrison, the prime minister: ‘Our town doesn’t have a lot of money, but we have hearts of gold.’ And, also from Australia, of the two little girls who pooled their tooth-faerie money, and used it to buy toilet rolls for pensioners who’d run out due to panic buying.
We may not be able to save ourselves from succumbing to every misfortune. But we can build up togetherness in our communities. We, too, can cultivate our hearts of gold.
This article was broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland on 12 March.
You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.