This Week's Comment from Network 7 News 

Edition 388 – December 4, 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.

Music and Movement

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The Bible says that unless you become as little children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 18:2)  So then, this last weekend I found myself on the road to righteousness.  Well, not exactly on the road, more on the floor, and, along with a group of adults, being trained in playing children’s musical instruments – xylophones, castanet’s, bells and rattles, to make a simple orchestra.  It was an exercise in showing how to involve children in positive group activities – and I wouldn’t even be mentioning it to you now, except for the fact that I’ve discovered someone much bigger and greater than me doing the same thing.  

Daniel Barenboim is, among other things, a world-class concert pianist and the acclaimed director of two great orchestras: The Chicago Symphony and Berlin ’s Staatskapelle. Now he’s adding one more.  For the last three weeks he’s been running a music kindergarten for Palestinian refugee children in the town of Ramallah .  He told the Guardian newspaper that “An hour of violin lessons in Berlin is an hour where you get people interested in music.  But an hour of violin lessons in Palestine is an hour away from violence and fundamentalism.”  

His interview is an interesting one and brings a positive balance into news headlines too often filled with news of suicide bombings and violence.  It’s a lovely ray of hope to find an acclaimed Israeli conductor teaming up with the late Palestinian intellectual, Edward Said, to enrich young lives and give pleasure and creativity.  Barenboim sees it not just as a bridge between the Jewish and Arab communities, but as stretching out also towards Europe – sharing its rich heritage of classical music.  

Barenboim has thrown himself into a world where he can make a difference.  Involvement.  It breaks down barriers and builds communities.  And it can happen anywhere in the world, and in any culture.  

As we move into Advent and the Christmas season we can find that involvement coming in different ways.  For the last few weeks there have been appeals in our church bulletin for helpers to feed the homeless on Christmas day.  Another advert appears for volunteers to assist at a Christmas party for the over -70’s.  All very well and good.  Admirable in fact – but I always have this small niggling thought in the back of my mind.  What happens to these homeless or elderly people for the rest of the year.  Do we only get involved with them at Christmas?  

I was taken back fifteen years this week, to a memory of the time my daughter Amy was born.  She was in hospital along with my wife – and I had some time to spare before visiting hours.  I chose to spend it visiting one of my church members, a senile old lady living in a council run home.  It was a bit of a depressing place.  You would walk into a room with maybe 15 or so old people sitting in chairs around the wall.  There seemed little activity.  Most of them just sat and stared at the carpet.  I’d been before.  Mrs Lane never knew who I was.  I would talk with her, read the Bible and pray.  I’m sure she’d forgotten abut my visit as soon as I left the room.  But this day was different.  Tim was with me.  He was 3 ½ and keen to see his baby sister.  So he also came with me to the old folks home.  He affect on the residents was amazing.  As we came in the door heads started to lift.  Smiles appeared on faces.  Mrs Lane took a real interest in our conversation, especially when she discovered my wife had just had a baby.  She was so delighted that a few weeks later I brought Amy to show her.  She was so delighted!  And it made an impression.  In subsequent visits she always knew who I was, asked after Tim and Amy, took more interest in life.  When she died a few months later her daughter told me how much mum appreciated those visits.  It made a difference for her – also a difference for my children.  I found they enjoyed visiting with their minister dad.  I remember Amy telling me one day, “It’s fun to be a minister!  You visit lovely old people who give you drinks and biscuits!”  I’d just taken her to see another old lady who was almost blind, quite deaf and whose body was falling apart at the seams.  But she loved Amy, and she was herself, a lovely person.  She told me, “Pastor, I feel so useless.  I can’t do anything.”  But she could.  She prayed.  And it was a great encouragement to me that I knew that everyday she was praying for me and my family.  

Involvement.  It’s a two way thing.  It bridges cultures and age groups. We can bless each other with it – and we can change the world – even if it’s only in a small way.  Amy, now 15, wants to work with children.  We were talking about her running an orphanage when she’s older.  “No,” she said, “I couldn’t do that.”   “Why not?” I asked.  “Well, I could only help 30 or 40 children.  What about the others on the outside?”  

Sometimes we do nothing because we cannot help everyone.  But what about it?  Helping 30 or 40 children means there’s a group who will have a very different future.  Even helping one will make a difference.  As Jesus said, “whoever welcomes one of these little children, welcomes me.” (Mark 9:37)  

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