Compassion – An idea whose time has come: Eleanor Stoneham introduces her book, Healing This Wounded Earth

Eleanor Stoneham

Eleanor Stoneham

MY THANKS TO ELEANOR STONEHAM for providing this fascinating and challenging introduction to her book, Healing This Wounded Earth (O Books, 9781846944451). Eleanor is another writer I met online in the ACW (Association of Christian Writers) facebook group, and I’d encourage any Christian booksellers reading to join the group: it’s a fantastic opportunity to get to know and interact with some of the authors (some well established, others up-and-coming) whose work is your stock-in-trade, the very life-blood of your business — who knows, get involved and you might even be able to persuade one of them to visit your shop for a signing session?

To all Christian writers, wannabes and well-known alike: I salute you! And now: over to Eleanor…

Part 1: Compassion – An idea whose time has come

It took a massive mental breakdown, now many years ago, to launch me into this world of writing. Because it gave me the time and space and opportunity to reassess my life, to change what I was doing, to take up new things, including writing and a more active life in my church.

How many realise that their pension funds may be supporting arms manufacture or child abuse: or that what they eat may be harming the planet or involve appalling animal cruelty? How many understand the flaws in our economy and the wisdom of the alternatives to be found in the Bible’s Jubilee Land Laws, and rules for debt cancellation? How many understand the full global significance of what they may be unwittingly supporting as they go about their day to day lives at work and at play? And do we care? These are important questions for us all, but Christians should be deeply engaged with them as a matter of faith.

I’ve tried to do a brave thing in my book: to explore these questions and many more in the context of compassion, spirituality, love and healing. I’ve tried to open people’s eyes as gently as possible to the results of our actions and the need for changes in how we all live our lives as I explore these qualities in business and finance, in the way we treat the living world around us, in our faith, in our art and creativity and the media, in our healthcare and in our communities.

It’s not always comfortable reading, but then who ever said being a Christian was meant to be easy? John Stott in his wonderful book Basic Christianity wrote of the scandal of “nominal Christianity.” Large numbers of people have covered themselves, he writes,

with a decent, but thin, veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved: enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is a great, soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life, while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience.

Healing This Wounded Earth

Healing This Wounded Earth

Those words are often as true today as they were when Stott wrote them in 1958 or thereabouts! And I suppose I want to reach out to those “nominal Christians.” Because my book was born out of a deep frustration that too many people seem to forget what they heard at church on Sunday when they go back into their workaday lives on Monday morning. And so often we don’t even realise what we are doing wrong, the effects our behaviour may be having beyond our own limited field of experience. We would often be horrified if we knew! So that’s why I wrote Healing this Wounded Earth: with Compassion, Spirit and the Power of Hope.

It is not just for Christians although it’s certainly a useful handbook for us. And Christ is of course at the heart of healing and compassion. The book was also written for and should appeal to those of all faiths or indeed simply those of Good Faith, who want to make a difference in the world, through finding and nurturing more compassion in their lives. The ideas are further enhanced by many inspirational quotations. I had great fun collecting these together, from the great world leaders and influencers past and present, people such as the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, and others. We would do so well to heed their wisdom. And the book is also practical, with lots of ideas to follow up, to bring a compassionate world nearer for us all. I’ve therefore included detailed endnotes and references, and a final Appendix, “Journey of Hope – Words into Action.”

So I really hope people not only enjoy reading it but make some changes in their lives as well, to make a contribution to healing our wonderful but deeply wounded earth.

My website can be found at www.eleanorstoneham.com where there is more information about the book, details of my background and links to my blogs.

Part 2: So what is the story behind that breakdown and completing the book?

I was running my own accountancy practice, absurdly overstretched and over stressed. And I was worried about what I saw around me. I could see so much self-centred, selfish behaviour, an alarming erosion of moral and ethical values, and a general lack of empathy and compassion for our fellow beings. The Me-Millennium, we’ve called it, and not without good reason.

It needed that breakdown and the convalescence spent lazily by a pool in the Turkish summer heat, to give me my Ah-hah moment: to inspire me to do something about this. My companion on my sun-lounger was Michael Ford’s biography of the spiritual writer and Roman Catholic priest Henri Nouwen, author of the best selling book The Wounded Healer. Of course! Nouwen was such a wonderful living example of the Wounded Healer; so wounded himself and through his own vulnerability such a source of healing for those he came in contact with. His books had helped me enormously. And something he had written about the need for healing the many problems of the world triggered a thought deep within me. That was it! I decided then and there to explore this further. How could we all help to heal the world through love and compassion, perhaps even through our own woundedness?

So I came back home from that holiday not only feeling much better for the sun and sea and relaxation, but also fired up to start my research. Amazingly the internet was then in its comparative infancy, and was nothing like the useful research tool it can be today. Frequent trips to Guildford University library were needed, where I spent day after fascinating day in their stack, surrounded by papers and journals and books and articles, collecting together the information I needed.

What was my background to qualify me for this task? I was a scientist. I’d written a scientific paper and a thesis to gain my PhD as a research postgraduate. For various reasons I had retrained as a Chartered Accountant, later adding the skills of a Tax Consultant, Independent Financial Adviser, and successful businesswoman to my bow. I even became a jobbing amateur theologian. Yes, in mid life I felt called to the Anglican priesthood, but was rejected at selection conference; I know they tell you it’s not rejection, but that’s really how it felt! I’m now an altar girl and verger in the Anglican Church, gardener and enthusiastic allotment holder. And I’ve experienced plenty of mental health care first hand! I had the eclectic knowledge and experience. I just needed to make sure I was up to date with my ideas.

So far so good. But what would I know about writing and publishing?

Realising this gap in my knowledge I took myself off to the internationally respected Winchester Writer’s Conference – twice – and learnt much about the whole writing and publishing business. I spoke to and networked with “wannabe” and published authors, publishers, agents, marketing consultants, soaking up lots of advice, but they were all very secular in their approach and ethos. One agent told me that mentioning Jesus in my draft script was a huge mistake! No one would want to touch it! Then I bumped into that well-known Christian whodunnit author, Veronica Heley, who in a passing comment suggested I look up the Association of Christian Writers. I’m so glad I did. Networking with members really helped me focus on my faith in my writing; they were a great support network and of course nice people to be with!

And I also found O Books who liked my kind of book!

So here I am with Healing this Wounded Earth: with Compassion, Spirit and the Power of Hope. The original book title was Ripples of Hope, inspired by a Robert Kennedy speech at Cape Town in 1966:

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

The publisher didn’t like that title so it was changed, but I still pray that people will not only enjoy reading the book, and discover more about themselves and the lives they lead, but also use it to help them start their very own Ripples of Hope for a better world for us all.

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