The mystery that has surrounded the disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370 gradually lifts. According to one expert, a team of researchers crammed a year’s worth of research into a couple of weekends to analyse data to pinpoint the last known location of the aircraft.
And sadly, for the relatives of the 239 passengers and crew who have been hoping against hope that their loved ones might be safe, it now seems certain that the plane ended its mysterious flight in a remote ocean location far from any possible landing sites. For them – the news must have been heartbreaking.
The world has watched in awe as the drama unfolded. A mystery with all the ingredients of a Hollywood blockbuster - terrorism, piracy in the air, confused government officials, spy satellites and secret monitoring. And then on Monday night the plot took another twist as the findings of the research were revealed and the news channels expert commentators were supplanted by disturbing pictures of the anguish and pain; of dashed hopes of waiting family and friends. Understandably, they vented their anger on the journalists who were intruding on their grief. Their faces transformed a TV drama into a human tragedy.
A similar transformation took place a few days earlier. The reality of the sacrifice made by so many young men in the First World War suddenly became contemporary and personal. A former local lad who had served with the York and Lancaster regiment – Lance Corporal William Henry Warr originally from Dorset – was identified along with nine of his comrades after their bodies were discovered in a foreign field where they had died in battle nearly a century ago. One distant relative talked about being touched by sadness on discovering his death, another about now being able to ‘close the book’ on the mystery of how and where her grandfather had died.
Sometimes big pictures are simply too big to grasp. They are obscured by their enormity or complexity and we are only able to take in the smallest detail. And paradoxically, when we do that – when we focus in on something small enough that we are able comprehend – we discover a window through which we can see the whole.
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend most of my working life in charities and been privileged to see at first hand the good work that they do. Like many, I spent a good bit of Friday evening watching Comic Relief. What moved me was not the antics of a minor TV celebrity – but the hollow, pleading look in a malnourished child’s face and the realisation that even though the problem of hunger and malnutrition in the world today is enormous – I was still able to make a difference. The realisation that big pictures are made up little ones, that oceans are made up of drops of water – and that a humble donation can transform both the giver and the recipient, keeps charities going. And for many of their beneficiaries – that insight, shared in abundance by Comic Relief viewers, will be the thing that will change their life for ever.