With the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana fast approaching, I’ve been watching some of the commemoration documentaries that have been screening on New Zealand television. I freely confess to being a great admirer of Diana. I stayed up late to watch her marry Prince Charles, loved seeing the many photos of her looking serene and elegant and beneficent, and still to this day feel sad when I think of her life having been cut so short.
Most of the documentaries have taken a frank yet sympathetic look at her life and works. They’ve celebrated her qualities, her abilities and praised her as a warm and loving mother. They’ve also not shied away from looking at her struggles, both internal and external, as she tried to navigate her way through the difficult waters of being in a troubled marriage and through becoming a member of the royal family. Her sons have added their perspective, as have her close friends. Some footage has added Diana’s own thoughts and feelings on her experiences. In fact, she seems as fascinating and captivating as she ever did, which is quite remarkable given that two decades have gone by since her untimely passing.
No matter what your take on Diana is, there seems little doubt that she was an extraordinary person with a charisma that cut through social boundaries. She sat with AIDS patients, she held hands with lepers, she had a genuine heart for the homeless. She championed causes others rejected and she inspired people to have courage, giving hope where none existed. Some small snippets from these documentaries that chronicled how meeting Diana changed the course of people’s lives is truly inspiring.
I think what has stood out to me most is the fact that her desire to help and to serve came from the realisation that she could genuinely make a difference. Many of the people she met in the course of her charitable works had been marginalised, felt unloved or rejected. Diana, for all her glamour and beauty and privilege, knew what it was like to feel just that same way. It made her compassionate. It made her want to reach out and tell others it would be okay.
At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want? To feel loved and accepted? To be needed and wanted? To feel as though everything will be all right? But how often do we do things that make others feel rejected in order to make ourselves feel stronger, more in control. Maybe, like Princess Diana, we need to work a bit harder to share the love, hold hands with the rejected and try, in some small measure, to make a difference in the lives of others. For in truth we can all make a difference.
Coming soon. . .