Monday, December 29, 2014


The conversations were about the really BIG issues in the world that needed to be addressed. The participants in the conversation were a group of young people. On a piece of scrap paper they had listed a number of issues that they believed to be important. They spent the next ten minutes defending their selection to others in the group. The intention was not just to see who was the most passionate of speakers and could persuade others to see that their issue was the BIG issue.  People tend to wear blinkers when it comes to BIG issues. They don’t always demonstrate 360 degrees of vision. They know all the details of animal experiments but know nothing about modern day slavery, or know the benefits of fairtrade but know little about the near extinction of rare butterflies. An important part of the discussion was simply to help them to take off their blinkers and see a wider spectrum of BIG issues.

My own top-of-the-list issue, had I been asked, is probably ISOLATION.

A couple of weeks ago the BBC aired a series of programmes in the morning hosted by the celebrity chef James Martin. He wasn’t wearing his chef’s hat and showing us interesting things to do with butternut squash. He had recruited a number of other celebrities, sporting personalities, TV presenters and the like, to visit the streets where they grew up and see what things had changed. While they knocked on doors and hugged people that knew them as children, James talked to people who were lonely. The loss of a wife or a husband seemed to be a common denominator. Grown up children lived the other side of the country. Next door neighbours moved out and strangers moved in and “outside” became a frightening place to be. The end of each programme was a neighbourly get together - a street party or tea at the local community centre. Under the watchful eye of the camera people connected with each other and representatives from different charities were there to point people in the right direction.

I am not sure whether it was the first or the second programme when I recognised my potential future self.  She was an old lady in her eighties or nineties. She had become isolated. She lived by herself and she rarely had visitors. She didn’t have “Meals on Wheels” because it would seem like the ultimate surrender to become dependent on someone. Asking for assistance was not the way she did things. Seeing my potential future self was so scary that I didn’t watch any more of the programmes for a week or so.

Warning bells rang! I am not in my eighties or nineties and I have time to lay down a different “old lady” path. I am not a very good joiner-in. I value my privacy. I am not gregarious. I am not the life and soul of any party – although that might not always be true. I think that sometimes I am not comfortable in my own skin and would like to crawl into someone else’s, someone with a bit of the exhibitionist in them. There are no children or grandchildren to bring new leases of life, or to live the other side of the country and not visit.
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Cor 9:6) Paul might have been talking about giving and the next verse talks about God loving a cheerful giver, but giving and sowing encompasses a whole range of actions. If I rarely engage in conversations with people I have just met I am never going to reap a wider set of friends.  If I am too busy to meet someone for coffee there will come a time when they stop asking.  If all I ever do is complain about the state of the world, or the government or the weather, what kind of fruit can I expect to reap?

I am not planning a list of New Year’s resolutions. I don’t think I am even going to hunt down the Bible verse that will see me through the year, although 2 Cor 9:6 looks to be a good one.  

A Facebook picture suggested seeking out a single word for the year ahead. I downloaded a book onto my Kindle – “My One Word” by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen. There is a DVD out there somewhere and course notes to run a church programme based on the one word. You're not supposed to get yourself stressed out wondering if the word you have chosen for the year is God’s word for you, or thinking there’s a better word on your list that maybe you missed. 

My one word is CONNECT. I love the Latin version of it -  Contineo is defined as: to hold together, to keep together, to connect or to join. That’s my word for the year. Not a list of things – just a single word. It’s not really about the number of connections like collecting Facebook friends.  It’s about quality of them, connecting not just to other people, but to God, to nature and to the unexplored parts of me.

The adventure begins…

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