Friends, I've been trapped in a feeling of weltschmerz for a few months now. Brought to us by our friends the Germans, a most evocative and poetic people, weltschmerz translates literally as "world pain" but more specifically that, "unlike angst or ennui, weltschmerz springs precisely from seeing that things could and should be better," as Oliver Burkeman wrote in the Guardian nearly a year ago.
It's a feeling that can be exhausting, that can weigh heavy on your mind and on your heart, and that can make you yearn to find something — anything — uplifting about the world. Today that thing was Mamadou Sakho, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has any familiarity with Liverpool's injured centre back. It's the time of year when players involve themselves in various charity efforts as part of the holiday season, but Sakho's activities go well beyond doing work in December.
"I always promised myself that if I did make it I would try to help children," Sakho said regarding his well-known volunteer work in a local school, as reported in an interview that's absolutely worth reading in its entirety. "I don’t think it’s asking too much for a footballer to give up some of their free time, but it clearly means a lot to the kids. Seeing them smile is great, it makes me feel good.
"Trying to help others has always been normal for me. I had nothing when I was a kid growing up back in Paris but I always tried to share with others or give them something if they needed it more than me. When I moved here I wanted to make a real effort to be involved in the community. Doing so helps you to understand the history of the city and the club. I had the same approach when I was in Paris. Now I’m a Scouser and I give everything for the Scouse nation!"
It's a Big Thing™ to declare yourself a Scouser as a foreign national, let alone one who has only been on Merseyside for two-and-a-half seasons, but it's clear that through his charity work, Sakho has found himself a home amongst the Liverpool people. Sakho can't personally cure the world of its ills — though I am very, very happy to let him try — but through acts of small mercies he can, as one man, bring a bit of brightness to at least a few people's day.
I've yet to find the German word for "ugly crying with joy over someone else's sense of decency and kindness," but I know for certain it's the cure for weltschmerz and that Mamadou Sakho's picture would be beside its definition in all German dictionaries.