Archive: Nov 2013
This weekend I went back to Warwick, revisiting my University days. I say that as if they were 18 years ago, not 18 months. That weird sense of timelessness we all feel hit me, living memories I’d long forgotten as if they happened yesterday. They weren’t even ‘amazing’ memories, but just the happy reminders of going to the pub after choir rehearsal, baking with my bestie and Ellen constantly making tea for me. My university days weren’t crazy but all those little things made an awesome experience.
I love going to Church on Remembrance Sunday. That might sound like an odd opening sentence, but it’s become such a focal point in my year that I look forward to that moment at 11am, when we’re silent, when we stop and reflect. This year I was unprepared. Don’t get me wrong, I was there and dressed respectfully, yet I hadn’t emotionally prepared myself.
Last month I came back from Colombia, where I learnt about the work Christian Aid support in a country where conflict has continued for 50 years. We travelled into Cacarica, in the midst of the rainforest. We heard how whole communities were forced from their patches of paradise to live with 4000 other people in a sports centre. We saw the ‘Hill of Terror’. When I was in Colombia, I heard these stories, took them in, processed them as best I could. Only now, sitting in my cosy church in sunny Southend, did I understand the scale of pain and suffering and struggle they went through.
That personal experience gave a depth to Remembrance Day I’ve never realised. ‘Lest we forget’ is a call to let the memory of servicemen live on, to vow the horrors of the World Wars will never return and simultaneously to recognise there are nations and militaries at war today, and ordinary people who get caught in the crossfires of conflict and the instability it inflicts on their lives. In Colombia, I met Father Alberto. He personally receives death threats for helping displaced people back onto their land. We asked him why he did such risky work, when he could display his Christian love in simpler ways, like feeding the homeless in his city. He replied:
I love Mr Men books: the block colour illustrations, the quirky characters and the punchline on the last page of every book. Over the years my favourite has shifted. Looking back on my well-loved collection, I found a simple question in the back of one copy. ‘Who’s your favourite Mr. Men?’ I wrote Mr. Worry. That’s pretty worrying in itself that he was my favourite as a child. Of course, Mr Happy is now up there too. Unlike my Disney sleepwear, my Mr Happy pajamas don’t have my name sewn on the front on them, so let’s hope I never lose them. But recently a new favourite has come into my life, Mr. Nobody. I really can’t recommend it enough and the power lesson of self-esteem it teaches….
Here’s the spoiler alert (for anyone who doesn’t like their Mr. Men reading ruined).
Mr Nobody learns he’s not a nobody, he’s a somebody and I’m a somebody. He has dignity, and I have dignity. He matters, and I matter. I really believe we need to live in a world where everyone understands that, embraces the parable of the Good Samaritan not as ‘just doing my good deed for the day’, but as helping even helping your worst enemy, because gentlemen and gentlewomen help. As I learnt from Colombia last month, helping can be as simple as standing in solidarity with someone, listening and sharing their story. Throughout Movember, I stand in solidarity with men with prostate or testicular cancer, with their families, with my family.
There’s a new Mr Men in town: Mr. Mo, published especially for Movember and available on Kindle. I gave it a 5 star rating.
Last week at work I led a youth session on the theme of ‘Heroes’. I love superheros and convinced myself everyone else does too. It went well, less well when they decided a superhero would beat up playground bullies, but by the end we’d learnt about some heros of social justice and found the common denominator: heroes do something. It might be organising a mass march on Washington and and delivering arguably the most famous speech in American history, or it might be not using the word ‘gay’ to mean anything but someone’s sexuality. Whatever the scale of impact, heroes do something.
On Wednesday I met a hero at Liverpool Cathedral, a clergyman aged who is about to retire. He told me about the different parishes he worked in before coming to the Cathedral, where he noticed an anomaly. Liverpool Cathedral is an incredible building that draws many vistors in, yet there was no-one with a dog collar ready to welcome them. So he began ‘working the floor’ as a clear religious presence, should anyone want to talk to him. People did talk, he listened and he helped them.
This hero was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer but he’s not ready to call it a day yet. It makes me so frustrated and angry and sad and a mesh of all kinds of emotions that cancer comes along and does this, zapping people of energy, just as kryptonite zaps Superman. That’s why this Movember, I’m going to do something and grow a moustache. I might raise a bit of money from it – great. I might make my friends more aware of health issues and cancer checkes – awesome. I will tell people the story of heroes like the clergyman and my Dad.
Day one: perhaps I should invest in some selfie lessons? You can track my progress throughout Movember at mobro.co/JoeyKnock