This image and message confronts you as you enter the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. A beautiful combination of elements with a vital purpose. Many years ago I read The Gift Relationship by Richard Titmuss which was all about donating blood which people do for free. Organ donation is the same. It is a gift we all have the potential to make and can change someone’s life. Like giving blood, it is a very altruistic gift as most often we don’t know who receives what we freely give.
I was familiar with Henri Nouwen’s phrase ‘the wounded healer’ but then I came across a book which talked about ‘the wounded storyteller’. It apparently is found in ancient Greek literature in Tiresias who reveals to Oedipus whose son he is. The biblical story of Jacob who was wounded when wresting with angels (Genesis 32.22-31) is offered as another example of the wounded storyteller.
The book is about encouraging people who are ill to tell their stories and challenge an often dominant narrative of a person being a ‘victim’ of illness. Frank writes ‘the ill person who turns illness into story transforms fate into experience; the disease that sets the body apart from others becomes, in the story, the common bond of suffering that joins bodes in their shared vulnerability’ (pxix).
Arthur W Frank The Wounded Storyteller. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.
I grew up in South Essex in an area called Thurrock, or more locally pronounced “Furrock”. I never remember it being explained for being famous for anything particular, it has some historical forts by the river Thames and since has been the setting for a few film. My favorite would be the funeral church in 4 weddings and a funeral. What has amused me over the past few years is to see adverts for cruises arriving and departing from Tilbuy, London!! You might be more than a bit disappointed not being able to see Tower Bridge as you dock (25 miles away). Tilbury did not have a travel destination reputation when I grew up next door. It was rough when i grew up near by, is not a place I have ever been proud to be associated with.
This was until this year, I have no recollection growing up that the Emoure Windrush docked at Tilbury, 21 June 1948, 70 years ago. Now best remembered for bringing one of the first large groups of post-war West Indian immigrants to the UK. One can speculate why I didn’t know, no one interested, something not to be proud of, I am not sure who I can ask. I would not say the area I grew up in was welcoming of perceived outsiders.
Recent news would suggest we still have not got a 100% grateful attitude to those who cam to help the “motherland”. I understand there is now a plaque commemorating the event. Perhaps and hopefully things will continue to change. Personally, I plan to make it my new introduction…”oh I come from near where the Windrush landed”, proud indeed.
I took this photo yesterday at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Our chaplaincy team are very grateful for a team of people who make these prayer ropes for people to take from the Chapel. One of those people left a note to say thank you. It lifted my spirits when I saw that and reminded me that saying thank you for the little things is such a good practice.
I haven’t studied a lot of geography and have no idea how these stones got into this stream. I love the image of an ever flowing stream which doesn’t flood or dry up and which is free flowing. However, life is often more like the picture with rocks and stones in the way and the journey not as straight forward as we might have hoped. The metaphor can be perceived in different ways and today I resonate with the idea of water finding a way despite obstacles in the way. I am still reflecting on our end of year celebrations at MCYM and reading and talking about bits of work students have done and this picture captures some of the experiences. God does not promise us an easy way but is our rock and with us wherever the stream flows.
“God has not promised to take away our trials, but to help us change our attitudes towards them. This is what holiness really is. In this life, happiness is rooted in our basic attitude towards reality.”
I was struck by this reading this week, firstly that it linked trials and holiness and secondly it also linked it to happiness as well. It resonated with me because if we feel illness is a punishment, or a withdrawal of God’s blessing, then when we are ill, where does that leave our attitude towards a loving God. Our attitudes towards being ill, hassled, bullied etc is caught up in how we view God. God does not have to will these things for us for them to happen, crap just happens. God promises to be with us, help us, resource us. This is how I view hardships, it helps me be more resilient and healthier in my view of God. Crap happens, but God is for me!
I am sure this is unrelated to it being on our 32nd wedding anniversary!! High maintenance, little easy going me!!
Reference: The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living Father Thomas Keating p165
If you look really closely at this picture you will see me as I took the photo. I see this picture every time I walk out of our living room. I bought it because the phrase consider the lilies is one which has been important to me for many years. It is a phrase from the Bible which reminds me to trust in God. In a week of endings and announcements that is a message it is good to be reminded of.