Head Lines with Jonny Mitchell: The very best and worst of human psyche

Thornhill Community Academy’s straight-talking headteacher Jonny Mitchell showed the world what life in the classroom is really like in the award-winning TV documentary series Educating Yorkshire.

Monday, 8th December 2014, 2:41 pm
HEAD LINES Jonny Mitchell.

Now he writes exclusively for us:

It is hard not to have been touched by the reaction around the world, from within sport and beyond it, to the tragic death recently of Phil Hughes, the young Australian batsman who suffered a fatal injury whilst playing in a Sheffield Shield cricket match last month.

Watching the autumn rugby internationals and witnessing the pre-match dignified silence, ahead of such intense sporting occasions, it reassured me that human beings are essentially decent; the tributes paid on Twitter and Facebook in particular, with vast numbers of people posting photographs of their cricket bats, adorned with their club cricket cap, were very moving, and we are planning a similar pictorial tribute in the coming days at school.

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But what I found most heartwarming was the reaction Phil Hughes’ family.

At a time when their grief was at its most raw, within hours of his death, they were keen to make sure they spent some time comforting and supporting the young fast bowler who delivered the ball which eventually took his life.

Of course, little comes close to the feeling of loss suffered when a loved one passes, but their recognition of the sentiments of guilt and hurt being suffered by the youngster was as selfless an act as could be envisaged in such tragic circumstances.

It would be too easy to lay blame, or simply resent this man, but it was the furthest thing from their minds.

It shows the sure brilliance of the human condition in the most testing times, and it was very emotional for me to read about it in the papers; amongst the doom and gloom of news around the world generally, it is rare to pick up on stories which demonstrate a purely moral outlook on life, and a concern for others over oneself.

Michael Clarke, the Australian captain’s, recent remark sums up what it is to be a thoroughly wonderful human being: “When you feel like getting back on the horse, Shaun, I will be the first to strap the pads on and stand at the other end of the net while you chuck them down.” If he ever does play cricket again, it will be because of this, and for no other reason, I think.

It was Bill Shankly who famously said football was not a matter of life and death, but “much more important” than that. In this case, the world of sport has shown that it has its priorities absolutely right.

Contrast this with the horrific four-year imprisonment of a young boy in the US, which fortunately came to an end this week with an emotional reunion with his mother.

Having been shut up behind a false wall for the best part of four years by his own father, who had lied to the police when they first came to investigate his disappearance, the relief and joy were palpable.

How could anyone put their own child through such an ordeal? And how heartwarming is it that, eventually, the family is reunited to begin the slow process of healing after such a terrifying experience?

I hope the father recognises the probable lasting damage he has caused, not only to his son, but to his ex-wife in the process.

I, for one, will be watching avidly to find out more on the story and what happens to the father from this point forward.

It’s a funny old world, epitomised this week by the very best and the very worst in the human psyche. I know which I prefer.