As human beings, we are pretty good at responding to a crisis, especially if that response involves us helping in some way. Sadly, we are bombarded by images every day by some group or other who desperately need our help.
With me this can lead to two different responses:
- We feel overwhelmed by the need & think that we can’t possibly help or change the situation
- We become desensitised, finding it easier to put down the paper or turn off the programme that ‘broadcasts’ the appeal.
I think that the real problem comes when a crisis is long-term: chronic water shortage; civil unrest; ongoing victimisation of specific groups; oppression by despot regimes; famine that seems to be solved then re-erupts to put communities & sometimes whole countries at risk. This list could continue.
But what happenswhen
- that ongoing need doesn’t continually hit the headlines?
- that need is on the minuscule scale of an individual who needs long-term attention or care, such as in chronic illness?
- long-term support is required by the carer or spouse after their loved-one has died?
These are areas that I think we humans struggle with, mainly because they don’t tend to ‘peak’; they fall from view because they are constant; not insignificant or gone, just constant. Nothing particularly spectacular; just a daily or even hourly need for the long-term.
Apparently this is one of the really big issues with chronic illness, whether terminal, debilitating or just ‘long-term’. We respond well to the need at first but slowly it slips from the agenda & becomes muddied in our already full & active lives.
The result is often devastating for the person or people suffering as they don’t only have to deal with the illness or situation, they also have to deal with the ‘sudden or gradual falling away of friends.’ They are usually the first people to ask, “What have I done wrong?” when the answer is “Nothing.”
Quite recently I was introduced to the work of The Gravel Road Trust; founded by Nick Battle who watched his wife die after a long-term fight with terminal illness. During this time, Nick (with a young family) faced many of the ups & downs caused by human frailty & forgetfulness: they were left on occasions to fight alone. The Gravel Road Trust is an organisation which tries to redress the balance by providing people to stand alongside those coping with long-term illness, bereavement & the subsequent struggle with ‘returning to normality,’ whatever that is. The Trust seeks to apply the lessons Nick learnt from his own experiences so that others do not have to experience ‘his walk along that gravel road.’
But I think the big challenge to me is not how to be involved with organisations like The Gravel Road Trust (that is largely impractical due to distance) but how I, in my own sphere of influence & life, can become more aware of the needs of people who often struggle & suffer silently, because they fall under the radar when it comes to being detected & helped by organisations or individual people.
I hope that my eyes are opened enough to see that although I may not be able to solve the whole crisis, I can play a significant & important part in helping & caring for others who otherwise may not receive the care & support they so desperately need.
Until next time …