This Week's Comment from Network 7 News 

Edition 364 – June 19, 2004.  

 This weeks  was written by AWR's  English Language Service Director, Victor Hulbert.  The full programme can be heard in Real Audio on our web-site.

Fall out of a plane?

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Sunday evening was eerily quiet.  I was out, taking my dog for his evening stroll around our estate and the local park – and I did not meet a single person.  I past McDonalds – usually busy at that time on a Sunday – but there wasn’t a single car in the drive through.  My student son, working inside, was very bored.  

The reason: 20.7 million Britain’s were staring at their TV screens, cheering as England scored their first goal in Euro 2004 – then groaning as they lost 2:1 to France in the final moments.   

You guessed – from my dog walking – that I’m not a close follower of football – so I wasn’t distressed when our French engineer wore his countries shirt to work Monday morning – nor did I need the grief counselling being offered, tongue in cheek, by a Croatian friend who called by the office.   At least his national team held of Switzerland to a goalless draw.   

If you pushed me, I’d probably tell you I’m supporting Portugal .  I have this deal with my Portuguese mother-in-law.  She always supports England .  I always support Portugal .  It keeps things neat, tidy and balanced.   

Given the choice though, I’d probably be outside doing something more interesting then watching men kick a ball around a field. Which is why the story that caught my attention Monday morning was not on the sports pages, but rather, at least in the British press, tucked away around page 5: former president George Bush senior, on his 80th birthday, taking a tumble out of an airplane and having a go at sky diving.  There’s not too many 80 year olds do that for the first time – but there have, over the last several weeks, been a number of stories of older people doing extraordinary things.  Ninety-three year old Fauja Singh set a course record for his age group at the London Marathon.  Meanwhile, so I am told, a retired lady is taking on new life hiking across Russia .  Nor does it need to be amazing stuff.   Since my dad died back last October my 81 year old mother has decided to take up computer classes.    I met another lady a few weeks ago.  She’s had a hip replacement, walks with a crutch, has recently lost her husband whom she had nursed through several years of debilitating illness – but who was in the middle of organising a family camp on a remote farm.  Tremendous.  

So much that we can achieve when we set our minds to it – and if we believe the health experts – people are increasingly living for longer, so we both need to admire those who are moving on past the 70 mark, and allow them the space to run their lives with dignity and purpose.  

One of those roles is, perhaps, pointed out in the lead article of Newsweek International.  In an article entitled, “Sad Planet”, it points out that depression has become a global disease afflicting some 150 million people from poor villages in rural Africa to the richest of rich industrialists.  The results include lost days at work, increased suicide risk, alcohol and drug abuse – or increased unprotected sex leading to illnesses such as AIDS – and a vicious circle is started.  

So how to get out of the loop.  Newsweek’s Tara Pepper and Jaime Cunningham suggest that “Talk Therapy” and particularly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be of benefit.  And it’s a kind of therapy that is easy to learn and to share – pilot projects in Uganda have been particularly successful.  While a Western concept it seems to adapt well to Asian, Middle Eastern and African cultures.  But the underlying principle is one that is as old as time.  We need people that can listen, that can reflect with us, that can help guide us out of a dark cave of emotional insecurity or lost purpose, onto a road that gives meaning.  

That’s what Jesus did with a woman, despised by her own neighbours, that he met by a well in Samaria , and offered her hope (John 4).  He did the same with Peter (John 21), following his devastating denial of Jesus at his trial.  Weeks later, by Galilee , Jesus takes time to talk and listen to Peter – challenges Peter to love and to follow him.  Challenges him to focus on the future.  The apostle Paul had his moments of depression.  He also had some wise council.  

Philip. 4:6 (NIV)  

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  

That’s great – for we have a God who listens – and who cares.  But he took it a stage further – a stage that gives a particular role for older people – but for the rest of us as well.  

1 Thes. 5:14 (NIV)  

And we urge you, brothers, . . .  encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

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