In this time of Lent, Mat Ray, Livability Head of Church Partnerships, reflects on how we can care for our neighbours.
Chocolate, coffee, biscuits – Lent is traditionally a time for giving things up. But unlike Dry January, Veganuary, Oct-sober, and other months for abstaining, Lent has an explicit spiritual heart; we give up non-essential things to help us concentrate on what is important.
Considering the importance of kindness
Today’s news is full of the coronavirus and the advice to self-isolate to slow the virus’ spread. So the world is being forced to consider what is really important – and it seems like toilet roll and pasta are top of the list!
But a visit to my local supermarket shows empty shelves. As people stockpile essentials, there isn’t enough for everyone. I wonder how many of us are thinking not just about ourselves and our immediate families, but our neighbours too? Crises like this remind us of the importance of neighbours. For all the talk of networked lives and globalised society, we can’t borrow toilet roll from our Facebook friends or Twitter followers. It should come as no surprise that in other parts of the world where life can be less predictable, more precarious, that community is thriving.
And that’s why community plays such an important role in Livability’s work. We love working with neighbours: everyone, whatever their ability or impairment, should have a community in which we feel at home, safe and respected. And each of us should have a role to play in our neighbourhood. Because a good life – a livable life – isn’t one of self-sufficiency and self-isolation, but relationship.
A story of selfless love
Of course, for Christians observing Lent, what is truly important are the world-changing events of Holy Week: Christ’s death and resurrection. For us, Lent is a time of preparation for Easter, the annual remembering of Jesus’ sacrificial love – He died that we may live. For some of us at Livability, it is this story of selfless love that inspires our work.
Whether Christian or not, let’s not use this Lent as simply a time to diet or fight a bad habit. Let’s think of our neighbours, especially as coronavirus spreads across our communities. Is there someone in your street who you should check on? Could you do some shopping for a neighbour?
To quote from the Bible:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition… Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.