The situation she outlined and with which we met at Christmas, is one sadly I have met many times before.
She had no money to buy food or even to be able to pay to put her heating on. She suffered from poor health and her husband could not get work anywhere, as hard as he tried. She had four teenage children and all she kept saying was sorry.
Sorry for having to ask for help,
and sorry that she was in this mess.
It was a heart rending situation, but as the lady hugged me and my team afterwards, it felt good to be able to help. The only problem is, now she’s in that place again, in fact worse. The benefit reforms have hit her massively.
Thankfully we have a ‘tin store’ which we keep topped up at our buildings in Wetherby which means we can respond in a small way to help out. Its been said before, but the poor we will also have with us.
It is one thing to pass legislation and law amendments from our big buildings of government and dare I say even the Church, but it is a totally different matter to understand how these decisions impact upon real people trying to survive let alone live.
I read today, More than half a million UK people may rely on food banks, says a study by Church Action Poverty and Oxfam. It blames benefit cuts, unemployment and the increased cost of living for the growth in hunger and poverty.
The motto of the Salvation Army is, ‘with heart to God and hand to man’. It speaks volumes about how we seek to live. We are called to consider in all things our neighbours. But I wonder do we even know our neighbours today? Let alone what they are going through?
Could they be like the family above, without food or heating?
On Monday I spent time with my neighbour. Hes a busy guy. His trees were getting out of control, and seeing as I was having a day tidying my own garden i tidied his for him. As i cut through the trees which were seriously overgrown, Rob started chatting to me. It was a good time together. We spoke about his struggles with teenage son and feeling at his wits end. I smiled and simply said we've all been there!
I said well I will continue to pray as I have done since his daughter was born almost 7 years ago. She was seriously ill when born, and it seemed unlikley that she would live. As my neighbours travelled to and fro from hospital in those days I would enquire and assure them of our continued prayers. It was good to be able to tell my neighbour that we have continued to pray for them as a family and celebrate his daughters upcoming 7th birthday!
It was a small and simple action, cutting his trees that led to a profound and blessed time together, remembering and giving thanks to God.
These two stories, are very different but each have needs, which I believe God calls us to.
Since Christmas a quote, which the new Pope also used at his induction, has stayed with me time and time again. Ill leave the quote from St Francis of Assisi with you,
‘preach the gospel at all times. If necessary use words’.