Who You Gonna Call?
May Day is on 1 May
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore our understanding of where to go for support if we’re feeling stressed, under pressure or depressed.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and three readers.
- For the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly, you will need to talk about the pastoral systems that are available within the school so that students know where to go when they need help and advice.
Reader 1 (loudly): Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!
Reader 2 (loudly): Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!
Reader 3 (loudly): Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!
Leader: What’s that all about? Surely we all know what the date is. Today is the first of the month and the month happens to be May. What’s to shout about? I know that, for some people, May Day is a day to celebrate people power, with trade union marches and political banners, but why would anyone else want to shout about it?
Reader 1: Ah, but the word ‘Mayday’ was used three times in each of those calls we heard. As many of you will know, ‘Mayday, Mayday, Mayday’ is an international radio distress signal used by aviators and mariners. If an aircraft or ship gets into danger, the pilot or captain issues this signal, hoping that potential rescuers will pick it up. By giving the signal three times, there’s no confusion with other words or sounds that occur only once, and at least part of the three-word call should cut through any background noise.
Reader 2: It was Frederick Mockford, a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport near London, who first came up with the Mayday call in 1923. His superiors had asked him to think of a word that would indicate distress and be easily understood by both pilots and ground staff. At the time, most of the air traffic was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, so Mockford suggested the word ‘Mayday’, derived from the French ‘m’aider’, meaning ‘help me’. In due course, other countries adopted the word, too, because it could be easily recognized. It is still the most used radio distress signal, the verbal equivalent of ‘SOS’ in Morse code.
Reader 3: Mayday is not a word to be played about with. Making a false Mayday call is a criminal offence punishable by a fine and possible imprisonment.
Time for reflection
Leader: I wonder if any of us have ever felt like making a distress call. Life can sometimes be difficult or distressing – none of us are exempt. For example, there is the distress of failure, disappointment or loss. For some, there is the distress of a breakup, whether it relates to our family, a friendship or another close relationship. Others suffer distress because of money problems, whether they are personal or within the family. Substance abuse inevitably ends up in distressing circumstances. There’s also the insensitive gossip and bullying that can happen on social media.
So, the question is . . . who you gonna call? When you’re in distress, where do you look for rescue?
Friends might be our first call. That’s what friends are for, right? But what if our friends are the source of the distress? What if disclosing that we’re distressed might show us in a bad light? What if it affects our image within our peer group?
Family should be another option, but sadly, for some of us, family is either absent or does not provide a place where we can run to in distress. Either there’s nobody there or we’re worried that they wouldn’t understand. Sometimes, the issues that we face may be very different from those faced by previous generations. However, before we dismiss the family option, I think it needs to be said that parents, grandparents and other relatives may understand more than we give them credit for. Remember that they were teenagers once. Maybe we should give this option a chance more often.
There’s also what we offer in school.
Outline the student support and counselling services that are available in the school.
The school option might feel like the hardest one for us to use. But remember, there are people here in school who want to listen to you and sometimes, they are detached from your circumstances in a way that friends and family can never be. The people in school want nothing more than to support students so that they can continue to fulfil their potential.
Christians and many other religions believe that God is there to listen to our distress calls. There are many instances in the Bible where God acts to help people in distress. God is likened to a good father or a caring mother. He is described as bringing relief, caring for the poor and wanting people to act in just and honest ways. In the same way as organizations such as Christian Aid, Oxfam, World Vision and CAFOD seek to bring relief, there are many instances in the Bible that speak about God bringing direct relief to people who are suffering. Above all, Christians believe that Jesus acts as a sensitive and caring friend.
Christians believe that anyone can call on God in times of trouble and distress. They believe that God is not just interested in major problems in our lives; he wants to help with the little things that go wrong, too.
The pilot or captain who sends out a Mayday call has no idea when and how help will come, but help usually does arrive, one way or another.
Let’s never struggle alone. Instead, let’s always be willing to reach out and ask for help.
Thank you for help in times of distress.
Remind us of the people, including you, who are available to us.
May we never struggle along alone.
May we always know that someone cares about us.
‘You’ve got a friend in me’ from Toy Story, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKTU4AarZ7A (1.19 minutes long)