Back in the day when I could get to London easily for gigs I went to see the Boomtown Rats at the Finsbury Park Rainbow, it was the autumn of 1979. “The silicon chip inside her head get switched to overload…” is how the song starts and when Bob Geldof asked “Tell me why?” the audience sang back “I don’t like Mondays“. Over thirty years later the song is still one that sends a shiver down my spine when I hear it. Bob Geldof wrote it in response to a sixteen year old going on a killing spree a primary or elementary school in San Diego. When asked why she did it her response was “I don’t like Mondays”.
At the Youth Work Summit 13 last weekend quite a few of those speaking talked about some of the latest brain research and the importance of understanding how the brains of young people may function. The Wellcome Trust has just announced a £5.4million pound study on teenage brains – it is a growing area of research and interest and there is so much we don’t know. One of the other messages that came out of the Youth Work Summit was the need to listen. I have had quite a few conversations recently about mental health related issues which is what this song leads me to reflect on. I sometimes wonder, as many of those I speak to do, if one of the problems is that we as a church find it hard to listen to people with mental health problems and accept them where they are at without wanting to fix them or implying somehow that if only they would pray/have more faith/confess their sin/give up alcohol/read the Bible more etc they would get better. Listening without judging, listening with compassion, listening acknowledging we all have vulnerabilities is a gift the church should be able to offer. Both society and the church can be good at stigmatizing a whole range of people and conditions and the song “I don’t like Mondays” continues to haunt me as I am aware of how far we have to go in providing a safe haven for people and how there are so many people longing for someone to listen.