When one reaches one’s eighth decade (as indeed I did a while ago now) one is inclined to believe that one has lived through and in that sense, witnessed and been made aware of just about all of the common patterns and practices of one’s fellow man, as well as of the wide variety and indeed, vagaries of human activity and behavior. During my lifetime, J have lived through a World War, conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, together with ongoing hostilities from time to time in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well as on our own continent of Europe. Beyond that – and having also lived through 9/11 in the USA and 7/7 in the UK – one has continued to live in hope that the gargantuan strides by way of achievement being reported at regular intervals in so many branches of science and technology, might achieve at least some degree of translation and positive correlation with man’s evolving behavior.
Then came the shocking and sickening news on 13th November 2015 and on Tuesday 22nd of March, of the vile and barbarous acts of terrorism perpetrated in a busy airport, in clubs, a concert hall and other places for public assembly, in Paris and Brussels respectively. As, I am sure is the case with the vast majority of our brothers and sisters around the world, words cannot adequately express what we truly feel by way of sympathy, sadness and indeed anger; or of our ardent desire to afford support and to uphold those in sorrow where we are able. I learned many years ago now, not to say to any who are so bewildered and lost in shock, grief and anger, “I know how you feel”. I do not and cannot, simply because, quite apart from the fact that I am not you and do not know you or possess any insight into your individual, psychosocial, spiritual or even cultural uniqueness, we also have to deal with our own convergence of shock, horror and bewilderment at such barbarous atrocities.
It is now seventy years since reports concerning the atrocities carried out at places such as Bergen-Belsen, Buchanwalt and other such WW2 Concentration Camps began to filter out into newspaper reports and Wireless (as it was then known) news bulletin’s. One day just after the war had ended, my mother, having read one such report, expressed her dismay and horror at such news: “The world seems to be capable of more and more evil as time goes by”, she exclaimed. “Never”, was my father’s immediate response. He went on to agree with her sentiments of revulsion but also to point out that at that very moment in time the world over, people were busily working for what he referred to as, “The common good’: e.g. caring for one another; for their families; for the sick, the aged and infirm. Others were hard at work maintaining, building, creating, entertaining etc. This, at any rate, seemed to be the gist of what he was expressing. I still, even to this day, remember his reference to a line in an old Victorian Music Hall song as follows, “People are beautiful…”.
Since the early days of my youth, I have, from time to time, found both inspiration and solace in the composition of verse. It has on so many occasions over the years, afforded to me a means of cathartic expression and proved to be of immense value and comfort, especially during my late, lovely wife’s illness and passing from this life, some nine years ago now. On every day of our forty-six years of happy, fulfilling and enriching marriage, my wife did so much, on a daily basis to inspire and afford light and warmth from her loving heart. At one time during our marriage, it was her loving care and devotion that brought me through serious and life-threatening illness and it was also at that time – and because of my deep sense of love and gratitude – that I composed and dedicated a poem to my darling “Chris”, entitled, “Beautiful People”. It is set out below and I offer it, “In Memoriam” for and as a tribute to those who lost their lives in such barbaric, cowardly and utterly pointless attacks on them and because of it, on every single one of our world-wide brothers and sisters who cherish freedom.
It is also my fervent intention and hope that those who have been left, to bear such terrible grief and sorrow – and indeed all who are bearing similar burdens at this time – might derive at least some measure of comfort from its heartfelt message. Although we – you and I – have never met; nor are ever likely to; a genuine and compassionate caring heart that ‘fuels’ that transforming sense of empathy and genuine concern, can prove to be a priceless human quality, possessing an ability to transcend the barriers of time and space and worldly personal knowledge of one another. To every soul enduring at this time, such a cruel and wholly undeserved but thankfully, not soul-destroying burden of sorrow (for no power on earth can achieve that) we gladly and willingly extend the hand of warm friendship and a genuine and most sincere ‘arm’ of caring support.
May your God be very near to comfort and strengthen you in these dark days of such unimaginable (to others) grief and sorrow and indescribable sense of personal and heart-rending loss. May He bless and keep you and all the peoples of France and Belgium, wherever in the world at this moment they may be.
People are beautiful, people like you;
Sensitive, dutiful. tender and true;
When life is clouded by sadness or fear,
And hopes dissolve in a sigh or a tear –
Love, like the sun’s ray, will come shining through;
For people are beautiful – people like you.
There’re many things that this world can afford,
Much to bring pleasure and much to reward;
Yet it is people that make life worthwhile;
Adds to its colour; its richness; its style.
There’s so much that’s precious, exciting and new,
In beautiful people – people like you.
People are beautiful, such beauty shines.
Deep in the heart where with love it entwines;
Forging a bond that time ne’er shall erase,
Safe in the soul where, in power, it displays –
Caring beyond measure; and self-giving too,
Such are the beautiful people, like you.
People are powerful; people with power,
Hold the world’s fate in their hands by the hour;
Power to create or power to destroy,
Power to abandon or power to employ;
Where people have heart’s that are noble and true,
Then are they beautiful people; like you.
If I must choose b’tween riches and wealth,
Promise of power, high status, good health;
Drop in a “Someone who’s loving and kind”,
And there could ne’er be a doubt in my mind;
‘Salt of the Earth’ and its ‘seasoning’ too;
People are beautiful – sensitive, dutiful’
Radiantly beautiful; people like you!