Three things…

They say things come in threes; Well this week I’ve heard three pieces of news, all of which have made me think about the people involved, and all of which have made me feel sad.

None of them involve people that I know personally, and yet I find myself deeply affected. Is it a ‘woman’ thing? The men I’ve had in my life have tended towards the opinion that when things happen to other people, yes, it’s sad, but nothing that they personally can get bent out of shape about.

I, on the other hand, will find myself in a cafe, tears streaming down my face, because of a newspaper or magazine article about someone I don’t know, and will never meet. In fact, in writing this, I realise I’ve always been the same. In 1967 I responded to an article about a lady in Bradford who was struggling to care for her extremely disabled son, despite her own leukaemia and severe heart disease. Her marriage had failed when the baby was born, because she could not join her husband in America, due to the baby’s disabilities. A second husband had died suddenly after 18 months of marriage, leaving her bereft, and her son without the father figure he had adored.

The article affected me very deeply, and I wrote to her, care of the magazine, and we ended up corresponding regularly. Eventually, in 1976 we called in on her on our way back from Scotland, where we had been camping, and stayed the night. Sadly, by then, her son had died. She was absolutely alone in the world, having been an only child, as had both her parents. I was very sad when one day I received a letter from the new tenant in her flat, telling me that my friend had died.

What were the three things I heard about that affected me so much this week? The first was an account of an accident in which a 90 year old lady was knocked over when she was walking with two friends. The accident involved a mobility scooter which they said seemed to appear from nowhere. The old lady was quite badly hurt and was taken to hospital, but the lady who had knocked her over did not wait to see if she was alright…she rode off and left her there, injured and bleeding, on the pavement. I can be charitable, and say that she was probably in shock herself, but to just leave seems unforgivable to me.

The second piece of news was that of the deaths of six men in an explosion in Afghanistan. Today, as I was waiting in line in the supermarket, I saw on the front page of the paper, a photograph of a soldier holding a posy of spring flowers. I think it was the contrast between the flowers and his uniform that affected me. The deaths of those men didn’t just affect their relatives and friends. The effects ripple out to other people, ending with people like me, who didn’t know them, will never meet their families, but are still feeling sadness for all of them.

The third was something that happened near where I live. Last Thursday a family were crossing the road, when their three year old girl was struck by a motorbike. She died, and the biker has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving. I read about it in the local paper, whilst cleaning brass for an elderly lady. I sat and cried as I looked at the little girl’s photograph. Her name was Billie. She was a beautiful little girl, with blonde plaits. Her family are going through the worst hell imaginable, and I feel for them all.

All these things happened because of other people. Two were accidents, caused by other people just not thinking ahead to what might happen, the third was a deliberate act, designed to kill as many British soldiers as possible. The Taliban succeeded. Their punishment will come eventually, but probably not in this life.

As for the lady on her mobility scooter, I imagine she’s suffering guilt and distress now, and that is her punishment. And the biker? No matter what the courts decide he should suffer, his punishment is for life, knowing that for something he did wrong, a child lost her life.

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