The apparent death of Alan Henning brings home the reality of the personal risk volunteers take when undertaking an act of kindness.
At a recent conference organised by the International Association for Voluntary Effort -IAVE – a minute of silence was observed by the 700 delegates to hope that the life of Alan Henning would be spared sadly this was not to be. The moment of reflection was a timely pause to be reminded of the personal risks that many individuals across the world face when they engage in voluntary action to improve the common good.
His family and friends have lost someone they love and cherish and are no doubt in the midst of their pain grappling with the question why? Alan, afterall was bringing aid, helping those in need, showing kindness and love to his fellow human beings in another part of the world why kill him and in such a horrific and degrading manner. There is of course no simple answer to the question nor indeed a quickfix solution to prevent it happening again and again and again. Man once again continues to demonstrate that there are no limits to the deparivity and pain we will inflict on our fellow human beings as we jouney on this short life together.
Dispirited and pessimistic as I may be about about the state of humanity and the lack of reason and kindness that seems to prevail in our world Alan Henning’s death is a call to action, not violent action or retribution, but to acts of kindness. Acts of kindness are danger to those who foster fear and ignornance, acts of kindness brings hope, acts of kindness build realtionships based on respect and importantly create bonds of friendships. Act of kindness such as the volunteering of Alan Henning, despite the associated personal danger, is a powerful act. His death was the ultimate sacrifice in excerising ones freedom to help others in our world to have a better life. It might seem a hopeless and futile task but as A C Grayling states in The Mystery of Things,
“And yet it remains the sole true hope for the future, which is why some of us – like the pianist still keep playing as the ship sinks – will not give up the theme. And we know one thing: that even if in the end the argument for reason and kindness fails, it will in the meantime have made a little bit of difference in the direction of the good.”
Alan Henning “did not give up the theme” his actions have made a “difference in the direction of the good.”