Editorial: Needs Must
by Kevin Sims
SOMETIMES, a little longing can be a good thing.
Take, for instance, the wonderful black-and-white photos of homeless people from the USA featured on the cover of this issue and inside. The moment I saw the book from which they are taken, Shelter from the Storm, I wanted to use them. I knew I had to have them. Perhaps, to some extent, I felt as if I needed them.
Need is a strong word but it shows a depth of feeling that ‘want’ doesn’t get near.
To my three-year-old son, Noah, ‘need’ is very common. He rarely just wants something, however trivial it may appear — a new toy, a biscuit, to be the first person to reach the front door — he needs these things. ‘You don’t need it, you just want it,’ I tell him, falling into every parent’s nightmare of saying the things we always groaned at when our parents said them to us.
But, thinking about it, perhaps Noah’s sort of right. In his world, things that are insignificant to me are important to him. Perhaps what I see as things he wants are needs to him, things that — for a moment anyway — he feels really, really strongly about.
The 21st century is full of messages that tell us we need things — the latest, biggest TV, fastest car, make-up that takes years off. Most of us would admit that we don’t actually need any of these things but we can get distracted by them, and wants turn into needs.
Looking through this issue, it’s easy to pick up on some obvious needs. The children of Mozambique, those who are caught up in emergency situations around the world, the people of Iraq all have obvious needs. What about the homeless people in Birmingham, Alabama, whose lives we get a glimpse of through their pictures and stories? They have needs too, beyond the need for shelter. They need people to get past their prejudices, they need people to listen to them and accept them. Perhaps most of all, they need love.
That The Salvation Army offers its help where people are in need is taken as read, but there’s a twist. For those who provide assistance there’s often a longing, a compulsion, a need to help.
That puts a whole new slant on the phrase, ‘Where there’s need, there’s The Salvation Army.’ To many Salvationists the need to help simply matches the need of the people they assist.
I guess that’s the way it needs to be.