When people are cruel

Two Planes Crash into World Trade Center

John writes:  This morning at the service we sang Stephen Fischbacher’s song When people are cruel.  Thought you might be interested in the following memory the song recalled:

One Tuesday afternoon in September 2001 I was in the hall of Holm Primary School  beneath the big bow window overlooking the slopes of Craig Dunain, listening to Stephen Fischbacher and his Fischy Music colleague Suzanne Adams. I had arranged this gifted Christian musician’s visit to Inverness. His background, like mine, had been in Brethrenism. I loved his powerful,  emotionally honest songs encouraging children’s resilience. Stephen’s music palpably brought healing to vulnerable children: he implicitly acknowledged that God is present in every movement of love, regardless of the specific beliefs of those through whom it comes.

‘You are a star!’ The Fischy team led Primary 5 pupils though a series of imaginative songs, most of them not specifically Christian, emphasising the specialness, the uniqueness of each child.  No room here for the grim curse of original sin. ‘You are a star, just the way you are!’

We discovered soon afterwards that as we laughed and sang, on the other side of the Atlantic, passenger jets were remorselessly targeted at the World Trade Centre.


And in the following days, Stephen and Suzanne were able to bring some peace to children mesmerised by images of destruction, encouraging them to reflect on their own personal experiences of cruelty.

You can either ‘build up one another,’ they we reminded, ‘build up your sisters and brothers’ (here you used your fists to represent building a wall, fist upon fist upon fist) or else you can ‘tear down’ those around you (here you grabbed an imaginary sheet of wallpaper above your head with both hands and ripped it to the ground.)

Soon, in the playground, groups of children were building fist walls and singing.

‘Build up one another.


 The song which meant most to me that week was When people are cruel. To the tune Streets of Laredo,  its theme is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus who faced ‘the bullies of Calvary.’ Yet he was not daunted because ‘he knew where he came from and where he was going.’

The song’s implication is that it is precisely because Jesus knew his origin and his destiny that we too may know where we are going, and so remain undaunted.

When people are cruel it makes all the difference
To know where you’re going and where you’ve come from

I found this of great comfort in those chaotic days. I was beginning to understand more fully where I had come from; to discern more clearly my possible futures. But knowing where you have come from and where you are going to is part of a more fundamental knowing – knowing your identity, knowing who you are.


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