Why shouldn’t we pause and notice?
It seems a crazy time of year for us here at the FaithAction office. There have been some lengthy negotiations where we have been considering our work with the Department of Health and interacting with other national bodies to see where our work can align and what we can do to share resources. Collaboration is certainly the order of the day; we’ve already done some work with a number of organisations including the Race Equality Foundation and Cathedral Innovation Centre, and we haven’t even really started yet.
However, it was in the midst of one of the exploratory conversations this week that my thoughts started to drift beyond our immediate work to something of more profound meaning. I was meeting with Marie Curie to look at how we can connect with their end-of-life work, and how they can draw from us in terms of faith awareness and shared resources. One story I learnt was about a Muslim man who spent his final days in one of the Marie Curie hospices. While this man had some standing in the community, what was most interesting was the number of visitors he had. All told, during his time at the Hospice, he received 75 visitors; many that had come from all over the globe, and many en masse. All these people were prepared to travel, to be inconvenienced, in order to be with a friend and brother in a time of need, in his final hours. People were ready to pause and notice.
Fast-forward an hour or two and I was on a delayed train heading to Leeds. The cause of the delay was a ‘suicidal male’ near the line at Peterborough, resulting in severe delays to the whole East Coast line. In the end, my train journey was delayed by half-an-hour, but I was not late for my meetings, and so, was not that put out. But people around the carriage had been making comments about the situation, ’Why doesn’t he just jump?’ and the like. Some would miss connections and they would have to continue their journeys with a long coach ride as a result. From my less-inconvenienced vantage point, I had this thought, ‘Isn’t someone’s life worth a 30 minute delay?’. What if he could be saved, guided out of this hopeless place? What if 75 people were ready to reach out to him and hear his story? Would being connected to those around him have helped him avoid this place? Could there be a greater sense of purpose for his life, created by a community of friends?
In the end, this person was and is ‘somebody’s darling’ (Many would know the story which I refer to here from New Zealand). It makes a big difference if we know whether someone values us or not. Last week, I was sitting at St Pancras station, trying to work out if I was on the right platform. A lady glanced at me and called my name; in surprise, I looked up and saw a familiar face. She swiftly reminded me that we had been at university together and hugged me. Indeed, we were at Middlesex University together, and had met at the Christian Union, but we had not seen each other since 1997! The buzz I had for the rest of the day from meeting an old friend is hard to explain. But the final thought that settled was this: this person liked me enough sixteen years ago that she was willing to cry out my name and hug me in the middle of a train station. I must be a little bit okay then! Of course, it says more about the sweet-spirited person that my friend was and is; that she was prepared to pause and notice!