My father had been perusing one of the news sites, unaware that they now feature stories that are commercials for products. He found once such story, reading about a man who had successfully predicted calamity. He went to it’s main site and turned on the video. It featured a smooth voice talking in a calm tone. As the voice spoke, captions appeared on the page. There was also the occasional graph to illustrate the numbers. The story was that the man was an average person who had a few contacts in positions of power. He narrowly avoided disaster and then got into the business of scouring the newspaper stories for information. Eventually he was able to discern a pattern and start the largest newspaper you’ve never heard of for reliable proof of treachery, financial doom, and other really bad things you should pay attention to and be prepared to face in the near future. He talked about one such occasion when the government was on the brink of disaster, the politicians all called their wives to tell them to withdraw everything they could from ATMs just in case the banks shut down before their last-minute negotiations failed. Everything turned out just fine in the end though. But a governor from one of the states heard the warning that disaster was about to come. He shared this story with everyone he considered a close friend so all of them decided to go to the bank and withdraw what they could – just in case the banks closed and/or ran out of money.
Last night, ‘A Wonderful Life’ was on, and there’s a similar scene where everyone runs to the bank in a panic to withdraw everything, playing into the hands of the the guy that owns the other bank who is willing to pay ‘fifty cents on the dollar’ to tide people over as long as it takes for everything to return to normal. I couldn’t help but wonder if the guy was doing just that – setting off a panic trying to get people to buy into his product to save them from disaster that others won’t be able to see coming because they don’t read his newspaper, ultimately causing the very panic that he warned others would happen. Bailey had to explain that their money wasn’t actually in the bank, but tied up in building each others’ houses to make things better for everyone.
I always thought that was a better picture of how Christians ought to help each other, not as if we were a bank where we could expect to deposit $30 and later on withdraw $30 exactly, getting out what we get into it, but being investors in each others’ lives. Thing is, we have to avoid the voices that tell us that the best way to avoid disaster is to withdraw from others and put ourselves first. I’m reminded of a rather sad poem where a group of people are stranded together on a freezing winter night and each of them have a stick that could have fueled the fire that would have kept them warm, but because all of them figured that nobody else would use their sticks, they didn’t either and the fire went out and so they all perished.
What really dooms us is when we decide that we can depend upon nobody but ourselves. When we don’t trust people, when we don’t invest in the welfare of others, when we don’t care about the consequences our actions will have on others. When we do that, we will have little choice but to start the very disasters that we see coming down the road. Why, the only way to avert them is to fuel the fire that will save us, putting our resources to help others so that in turn others will be able to help us when we cannot help ourselves. That is how we avert disaster.