Much as I want to avoid doing so, it’s difficult not to mention the extreme weather we are experiencing. The impact has been immense: schools closed for three days, bus services off, many folk working from home/having a “snow day” and the roads almost deserted following strong advice from police and others.
It’s not really the snow I want to talk about, but what it seems to bring out in people. Like the folk at St John’s Church in the centre of Edinburgh who have opened up their building for the last two days, 24 hours a day, providing meals, clothing and shelter. Or the teams from Streetwork, Rock Trust, Bethany, Social Bite, the Grassmarket Project, our own Cyrenians staff and many others who have made sure those most in need are cared for as the snow covers the city.
The businesses like Harry’s Bar who have supported St John’s endeavours; or the folk at Smith’s Deli on Mayfield Road who are providing hot drinks and food to save people in need from having to go into the city centre. These are just the ones I have heard about – there will be many, many more.
Then there are the individuals who have gone the extra mile and more. My twitter feed has become full of stories like the doctor who walked three hours in the snow to carry out a cancer operation because she knew delay could be fatal. The nurses who braved the conditions to make sure their patients were cared for and their colleagues got a break, or this bus driver whose quick thinking saved lives
Sometimes it can feel like we live in a tough world full of danger and not a great deal of hope. Times like this and the stories it creates are the moments when we realise our future lies in our hands and no-one else’s. The collective energy of good will generated in these last two days need not go away. We can choose to continue to reach out, to care for our neighbour and the stranger, to choose not to walk by on the other side, to continue to rediscover how in meeting the needs of others, our own needs are met too.
Life will get in the way. I know this to be true because it’s true for me too. There’s stuff to be done and people see and family to cope with and bills to pay and all the things which mean there just never seems to be enough time to do more. But even the smallest of actions can make the biggest of difference.
Why do I believe this to be true – well let me tell you another story, not one I have heard today, but a much older one. It is well known to many but it explains what I mean and seemed appropriate for today:
“Tell me the weight of a snowflake.” a sparrow asked a wild dove.
“Nothing more than nothing.” was the answer.
“In that case I must tell a marvelous story,” the sparrow said.
“I sat on a branch of a fir tree, close to its trunk, when it began to snow, not heavily, not a giant blizzard, no, just like in a dream, without any violence. Since I didn’t have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the next snowflake dropped onto the branch – nothing more than nothing, as you say – the branch broke off.”
Having said that, the sparrow flew away. The dove thought about the story for a while and finally said to herself,
“Perhaps there is only one voice lacking for peace to come in our world.”
Whenever you think your contributions, acts of charity, work for justice, gifts of love, or your talents are nothing, or are small in comparison to those of others, remember that when one is added to another, and then to another, great things can happen – from “nothing more than nothing.”
1st March 2018