Like so many of you, we sponsor a child through Compassion UK. Our Joseph, who lives in the Philippines, is now 10 years old and loves playing football on the beach, and messing about with anything technological which he can get his hands on. We send him photos, and he was very taken with one of Windsor Castle and another of a steam engine – and particularly the scene we sent him of both of us walking in the snow. His letters are short but full of detail, so we know that he is currently not able to go to school because of the pandemic, and that he had a great birthday in spite of going without any party or surprises this year. He loves his mum and dad and tells us how blessed he is to have them, and always lets us know that we are in his prayers. It’s fantastic to think that we are part of this little boy’s life, even though he is so far away, and we look forward to his letters. But what particularly strikes us is that in so many ways Joseph’s hopes and dreams and passions are exactly the same as those of the son of a friend of ours, who lives in the south of England, and who celebrated his 10th birthday just a week before Joseph’s. These two boys, living on opposite sides of the world, show us that our stories are so often the same, in spite of the very differing contexts in which they take place.
We have seen that this is true throughout this pandemic, as people share their stories of loss, fear, courage and strength regardless of who they are or where they live. Everyone has been affected in some way and so often their experiences are the same. Just this week BBC Breakfast interviewed a family whose loved one was in a care home, and were currently unable to share physical time and space with her, so that they were very afraid that she was beginning to forget them. The BBC was consequently inundated with stories from others who were experiencing exactly the same fears and concerns, so that it became very apparent that this was a real crisis point for thousands of people. No matter who we are, or where we live, we have the same reactions and emotions, the same cares and anxieties, the same hopes and desires, because what unites us is so much greater than that which divides us. Even when we have never experienced the situations ourselves we can still feel compassion and sympathy, as God has made all of us in His image and so allows all of us to feel the links that bind us together in common humanity.
Everybody’s story is therefore necessary and valuable to us, as they give us insights into ourselves and our own experiences and values. That is why we are so keen to hear your stories, particularly at this time, as they encourage and enlighten us and give us hope. It doesn’t matter if the subject matter seems mundane and unimportant, because just knowing that someone out there is experiencing something with which we can identify reassures us that we are part of something bigger. The apostle Paul says that ‘in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others’, so in order to feel ‘whole’ we all need to recognise our connectedness and unity. So please think carefully about how you too can help us to feel united through the stories we share. Has God blessed you in some way which, if shared, would bless all of us? Or have you gone through a difficulty and come out the other side knowing that God was with you throughout it, making you stronger? If so, please let us know, so that we can all benefit and the body can be strengthened.
With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline