A lot done, but still more work to do
By Deacon Douglas Levermore
The island is a buzz with excitement of Jamaica’s 60th year of independence. Jamaicans at home and abroad are beaming with pride as the nation marks this momentous anniversary - its diamond jubilee. Jamaica is one of the most recognizable countries in the world. In its relatively short history, its people, culture, and achievements are internationally renowned. It can be argued that the history of the world would be poorer if not for the exploits of Garvey, Marley, Bolt and countless others. If you go to the farthest corner of the world, chances are a Jamaican is already there. As the old saying goes, “if a egg, we inna di red”. Yet, with all its achievements, awards, accolades and accomplishments, there is still more work to do.
As a little boy growing up In Kingston, I can recall the grainy black and white picture reel that used to come on the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) television channel just before “sign off” showing the moment the Union Jack was lowered. Then, there was pitch black, after which the now distinct Jamaican flag was raised to the heavens, marking the “birth” of the nation. Then the National Anthem was played for the first time: “Jamaica Land We Love”. Written by Reverend Hugh Sherlock, ours is the only national anthem in the world that is also a prayer. This signalled the intentions of the “founding fathers” of the strong spiritual context in which our nation was framed.
The second verse of our Anthem is not as popular as the first verse. Though it is not usually sung, its lyrics are no less important. It asks the Eternal Father to teach us true respect for all/ stir response to duty’s call/ strengthen us the weak to cherish. But have we lived up to the words of this noble prayer? I attest to you brothers and sisters, that we have not done so. Jamaica 60 proclaims to be “reigniting a nation for greatness”. However, this theme is both an indictment and confession. It concedes that the flame that was lit on August 6, 1962 has been extinguished. If we are reigniting the flame, when exactly did it go out?
Nearly fifteen years ago, we were awakened to the devastating news that a man took the lives of young children in Kilancholy, St Mary. We were sickened to hear that the children were stabbed to death in brutal fashion. “Never again”, we said. We would “do better”. We would try to see people in their moments of need and help them where we could. Alas, there have been many more Kilancholys since then, even last month, when a man killed his cousin and her four children because he felt that she “disrespected” him. We have become numb to this type of news. Though this was a heinous and cowardly act, we are compelled to ask the question whether there were no warning signs or points at which sanity could have prevailed. Were there any points that a kind word by a family or friend could have intervened? Could someone have reasoned with him? Isn’t this the sort of thing that conflict resolution is supposed to help?
A few weeks ago, Cheryl and I were walking when she observed an elderly man in the distance laying on the side of the road who had fainted in the heat of the midday sun. A frail, little bald-headed man, he may have been in his early 80s. He was dressed in at least three shirts, including a heavy flannel overcoat. We lifted him to a shaded area, as we awaited the ambulance. It brings to mind the parable of the Good Samaritan. Many people passed, but only one stopped. Brothers and sisters, we are the ones that are called to intervene sometimes.
The truth, as we reflect on Jamaica 60, is that we cannot proclaim to be children of God and not reach out to others who are in need. How can we turn away from our brother who we see, and then say we love God, who we have not seen? Matthew 25 verse 35 reminds us that we are to help the least among us: when they are hungry to give them meat, when they are thirsty to give them something to drink and to see the stranger and invite them in.
If we are to be true to the words of our Anthem and really cherish the weak among us, we will have to bear each other’s burdens. What are you doing? There are so many ways you can get involved – the soup kitchen, the homework center, the usher ministry, Sunday School, the audio visual ministry. Play your part. Reignite your flame. For certain, if we can help somebody as we pass this way, then our living will not be in vain.