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Feather's Miscellany: Airport Incident

John Waddington-Feather tells of a vital question put by a blind Ukrainian girl to a businessman in a hurry.

The increase in the pace of living in cities over the past fifty years has been at once a curse and a blessing. We save much time with all our new gadgets; we walk around with mobiles glued to our ears chatting like robots – but what do we do with the minutes and hours we have gained? Little, I suspect.

Generally speaking, rural life has plodded on at a more sane rate. The tractor may have speeded up the time in which a field may be ploughed, and the various gadgets attached to it have reduced the time taken, say, to cut a hedge or drain a dyke. It’s also lowered drastically the number of labourers working on the land; and as result social life in rural communities which had existed for generations has suffered, and the land may be overworked producing crops two or three times a year. Probably of all the people living in the countryside, it is the farmers who suffer stress most.

Commerce and industry are two areas of life where the race has overtaken the runners. Office-workers and manufacturers are always trying to catch up with themselves, with no time to pause and reflect what life is all about and little time for rest. Outside, people are scurrying about with mobile phones or i-pods glued to their ears; while inside computers have taken over daily living to the extent that many no longer write letters but e-mail and text each other. The art of written correspondence is dying and recently I’ve discovered that my neat copperplate handwriting can’t be read by some youngsters. I might as well be writing in Cyrillic or Chinese script.

Speed is now the essence of life - but to what purpose? Efficiency? Perhaps, but certainly not peace and happiness or thoughtfulness for others.

I heard a story the other day of a blind flower-girl called Mariola, who had a stall just outside Kiev Airport, in Ukraine. Her parents had died in the Communist era before the 1990s, so she’d never read the Bible or had anyone read it to her. Religion was very much frowned on by the Communists, but all that changed after the collapse of the Communist Empire which made Ukraine free to embrace capitalism with open arms – and, alas, all the ills which went with it.

Of course, there was freedom from state control and eventually freedom from Russia: no more prying by the secret police into people’s lives to make sure they were toeing the Party line, which included not reading or teaching the Bible. Now they were free, folk were able to live their lives freely, even if it meant having mobile phones stuck to their ears all day and rushing about to catch up with themselves. Young, thrusting business men and women scrabbled over each other to amass more wealth and get to the top; Mammon and power their gods.

And so it was one Friday afternoon, a group of young entrepreneurs left their meeting and raced to the airport to catch their planes home across Ukraine. They carried their luggage and brief–cases and in their mad rush to catch their planes, one of them accidentally caught the flower-sellers’ stall with his case and over it went. Flowers and vases went everywhere, but none of the young men stopped to help poor, blind Mariola who was left vainly feeling around on the floor for her strewn flowers.

One of the young men, Ratislav Geretskyi, had a twinge of conscience and hurried back to help the poor girl. He knew he’d miss his plane and phoned his wife to say he’d be late. As for Mariola, she was still on her knees scrabbling for her strewn flowers, ignored by the throng hurrying by.

Now Mariola had spent her life at school in the orphanage under Communism. She’d been given a very basic education, but it contained no religion of any kind which was banned by the State. Only the brain-washing creeds according to Marx and others were pumped into children’s minds, and it continued after they’d reached adulthood; that is, until the fall of Communism in the 1990s. Then windows of freedom were opened and in the new light an elderly devout teacher began reading stories of Christ from the Bible to Mariola and the other blind children. What impressed Mariola most were the healing miracles of Christ and his caring for outcasts and the downtrodden.

Ratislav joined her on the floor and helped her gather her flowers and vases together to set up stall again. He apologised profusely for the accident and when he’d finished, he pulled out his wallet and gave her some money to make good the damaged flowers, asking her again if she was all right and hoping the incident hadn’t spoiled her day. Then he said good-bye and began walking away till he was halted by a question from Mariola. “Sir,” she asked after him, “are you Jesus?”

He turned but didn’t know what to say. Of course, he’d heard of Jesus Christ, but he’d never opened the Bible, never read the Gospels so he was completely lost for an answer and hurried on his way with the blind girl’s question burning in his mind. No way could he answer her for he’d been taught not to believe in Jesus; yet it nagged him all the way home.

What happened after that I can’t say, but it would certainly make a good story. Yet it’s a question we who believe ought to ask ourselves. Is our way of living such that others, believers and non-believers alike, see Christ in us? Or are we so caught up in the rush of life that we become simply non-entities whose minds are focussed entirely on gaining wealth and power?

John Waddington-Feather ©

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