The Common Good

It was my turn to offer a Thought for the Day on Radio Scotland again today. This is what I said:

Yesterday I was one of millions of people who watched TV coverage of the London Marathon. Truth be told, I’m already pleased to have a chance to take a break from election news!

Like many others, my attention was drawn to a runner from Swansea Harriers. Matthew Rees had an extraordinary race yesterday because of a choice he made. In the final metres of the event, he saw another competitor, David Wyeth close to collapse. And rather than run by, he chose to slow down and stop to help the exhausted man finish.

Helping a fellow competitor in a race might seem counter-intuitive. After all, races are all about winning, aren’t they?

Well sure. But in another sense, the runners had a common goal: they both wanted to finish one of the world’s best-loved marathons. And Rees was prepared to sacrifice his position and time for the “common good” of both of them crossing the line. The crowd cheered, and so did I!

The notion of pursuing a common good over and above self-interest has been around since ancient times. For Christians, it’s an idea rooted in Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbour, particularly those who are most vulnerable and in need. But the principle is a wide one, to which we can perhaps all relate.

Things that advance the common good are those that enable people to flourish and fulfill their potential. We can choose to seek these things in the decisions we make as individuals. We can seek them in the way we engage in our communities. And we elect politicians to work to achieve them on our behalf on the national stage.

In the midst of election coverage over the next few weeks, we’ll be asked which political representatives we consider might help us build a society in which all people can flourish and reach their potential. But just like Mr Rees, we also have personal opportunities. Every day presents us with chances to think about how we can advance the common good through our own lives.


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