Travel on a Train
On the way to a preaching engagement in Oxford I had to travel by underground to Paddington Station, the home of the famous bear. On the underground people seem to have perfected the art of blanking the world out. A group of very enthusiastic buskers entered the carriage with their brass instruments and drum. They clearly noted my clerical collar and gave us a good blast of ‘When the saints go marching in’. I felt obliged to look enthusiastic and put some money in the cap being passed round. Everybody else in the carriage pretended nothing was going on.
At the next stop the cheerful buskers left and a beggar entered the carriage. He announced that he was cold and had nothing to eat and would be grateful for any spare money. I didn’t give him any, because I could see he had a bag with food in it. I was the exception, however, since nearly everybody else came to life and gave him something. I felt the carriage’s disapproval of my meanness.
I do believe in helping those in need, so I find it difficult ignoring those begging for money. Sometimes I do give money although I prefer to give time to listen to someone, buy food, or to contribute directly to a charity. In the story of Paddington Bear he is simply left at the station with a label saying ‘Please look after this bear’ and the Brown family do exactly that. For most of us life isn’t quite that simple.
Nevertheless the coming of Christmas should challenge us to reach out to others. It is a time when we celebrate God reaching out to us by becoming one of us in the manger at Bethlehem. We are called to love others as God loves us, so that does mean reaching out to others.
It can be a minefield navigating how to help others. If you suspect somebody may do something unhelpful with the money you give are you right to give it? On the other hand what if you ignore someone who is genuinely cold and hungry and has no one else? It is a difficult one to sort out. All I can say is that the principle of active love to others is right, but how we do it is for us to decide; sometimes we may need to show tough love.
At many of our Christmas services we do give the collection away; sometimes to charities in this country and sometimes to those overseas. It is a gentle reminder that at Christmas God reached out to all the peoples of the world and we are called to do so today.
Posted By: valerie