Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’


Hero Killed in Norwich – The Need for Change

2008 October 2

UK readers may have heard on the news this week about a killing in Norwich. Norwich is my county town and is usually sleepy, when it comes to murders anyway. The murder was of a millionaire banker, Frank McGarahan, who intervened in a dispute. Reported on the BBC News website, his brother, Tony, said:

“He would not and could not stand by and watch a defenceless young lad and his girlfriend, who were in a taxi queue after enjoying being out together, being mindlessly attacked by a large group of grown men.”

He said his brother “did what was natural to him to try and help someone because they needed help.” And he said of the murder:

“We will never understand how or why anyone could murder such a decent, caring and loving man.”

Mr McGarahan leaves behind a wife and children.

According to BBC News, the man and woman attacked were a 35 year old homeless Lithuanian man and his girlfriend of 45 from Norfolk. A bouncer who also intervened in the fight had his jaw fractured. Mr McGarahan’s brother and cousin are also reported to have tried to help the couple.

The local newspaper’s website, EDP 24, reported that three local men in their 20s had been arrested about the murder. Norfolk Police are still keen to hear from anyone who witnessed the events. Norfolk Police can be contacted on 0845 456 4567.

The area where the attack took place is just two minutes walk from Norwich’s central police station. It is a few seconds from City Hall. And incidentally from the place where the comedy post recently featured here on the Norwich Elephants was filmed. Residents and regular visitors to Norwich will be familiar with the Guildhall, Tesco Metro store and taxi rank where the incident happened.

We do not yet know fully what happened. But it highlights the growing feature of modern Britain of anger and ignorance of the rights and feelings of others. This was recently highlighted in a short series, Losing It, on the BBC. I must admit to missing the first part, which is repeated on BBC1 at 00:25 next Thursday, the ninth. The second part is screened on BBC1 at 23:20 on Monday, the sixth.

It is trendy now to blame bankers for our economic troubles. But in considering how I may have reacted, I think Mr McGarahan was a hero. It shames me, and I suspect the other six out of ten Britons who admit this, that I probably would not have intervened. In getting involved, in trying to break up a dispute, he showed courage.

We can all do something, however, by learning mindfulness. By cultivating attention to the here and now and to the feelings of others, we can each of us change our world. Even if it is only a small change we make. Small changes add up. Simple things like:

  • Recognising a homeless person is a human being with feelings who may well be in his or her circumstances unwillingly,
  • Considering the feelings of another even during a confrontation and even if our own feelings are hurt,
  • Recognising our own feelings before we lose control of them,
  • And being considerate to others in general. How often do we hear of stabbings, beatings and so on that began with minor events?

Paying attention to the moment, to our surroundings, to the situations of those around us helps prevent needless suffering great and small. We can prevent accidents by being attentive when driving, cycling or walking. We may not all have it within us to show the kind of courage of Mr McGarahan. But we can at least have the courage to buck the trend of anger, selfishness and inattentiveness. The wings of a butterfly can affect the course of a tornado. Even a small change, good or bad, may have greater consequences down the road.

In today’s economic climate, we may well find ourselves in need of the kind of help we would not have thought possible a year ago.


Suggested Reading*

Nhat Hanh, Thich. (1990). Breathe! You are Alive: On the Full Awareness of Breathing. Rider.
Nhat Hanh, Thich. (1990). Our Appointment with Life: Discourse on Living Happily in the Present Moment. Parallax Press.
Nhat Hanh, Thich. (2006). Transformation and Healing: Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. Parallax Press.

*Please note that these are Buddhist books. I invite you even if you are not a Buddhist to read them at least once. You can then judge for yourself if they are useful in your life, and whether practising mindfulness can improve the lives of us all. You do not have to study or adopt Buddhism to practise mindfulness or meditation.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen master living in France. You can learn more about his lineage here:

Sources for News Story