March 2014

Don’t give up

By the time you read this, with a bit of luck and a following non-gale force wind, the incessant rains might just be a distant memory. When I wrote this, however, along with many others, I began the day out with my shovel clearing out drains and ditches to try to clear the road and stop my house from being flooded. Then I came in and switched on the news and, of course, heard about all the people in Somerset and along the Thames Valley whose property was underwater: I have no doubt that many of them would willingly have swapped their condition for mine.

It is all too easy for us to focus on our own woes and not open our eyes to what so many other people have to endure. This is a thought which is particularly pertinent  as we enter the Holy Season of Lent on March 5th. For many of us, the major problem we face is to decide what trivial luxury we will do without during Lent, knowing that it will be there waiting for us once Easter comes. It is as though the important thing is to give something up, rather than to use giving something up as a spiritual means to a greater end.

Well, Christian Aid has this year produced a brilliant document which will enable all of us to use this season to focus our attention beyond our immediate horizons in order to concentrate not on the luxuries we enjoy, but the necessities we take for granted but which so many millions of our brothers and sisters throughout the world have to do without. It is called Count Your Blessings 2014 and is a calendar giving bitesize reflections for each day, encouraging us to pray for the people, countries and issues mentioned and to record our response. So, for instance, on 19th March, it says that 115 million children are currently involved in hazardous labour that keeps them out of school: it asks us 50p for each job we have done where we have felt safe. On 11th April it says that in Bangladesh, there is only one doctor for every 5000 people while in the UK there is one for every 350 and asks us to give 35p if we can name our GP. They do not all ask us to give money, but they do all force us to look at the world beyond our shores and even make us realise that the floods is Somerset and the Thames Valley are nothing like as bad as those suffered regularly by the people of Bangladesh.

I certainly intend to follow the calendar. If others would like to, I have a number of copies which I will be only too pleased to give out. They can also be obtained via http://christianaid.org.uk/lent.

Giving up chocolate for Lent is well and good if all we want to do is to lose weight: following this calendar will open our eyes to the needs of others and the blessings which we perhaps too often take for granted.