Anglican Newsletter for March
Every Spring I am amazed again by the little copse of trees, by West Dereham Abbey, with its carpet of aconites and snowdrops – and every year I am sure someone goes to see what I am talking about – but probably by the time you read this it will be gone! But this is also our first spring in a new home (mind you the cold of the past few days has been vicious and it seems rather unlike spring!) But from our windows we see the red deer every day, in little groups of four or five – almost certainly including one or more pregnant does. In the pond 50 yards away (it has not been a pond before, but it is one now 20 yards by 4, after all the rain of the past weeks) we have a pair of ducks, possibly not far from a nest. After months of not seeing any hares, we see several every day now, running across the fields – presumably within a few weeks we will see them sparring away. We have so many birds on our bird feeding contraption that sometimes we cannot count them – and they include the pheasants that cluster on the ground below, to say nothing of the pair of squirrels that take so much of what we put out.
All the signs are here. Spring is on its way – should be even more obvious by early March when this is published. Wouldn’t it be great if we could also see such signs in our economy? Maybe we do! The statistics say that we are in multiple recession – but the decline in GDP is of fractions of one percent. Experience already tells us that these statistics are ALWAYS changed over a period of up to 2 years, as more data is put onto the mix – and almost invariably the change is upwards, not downwards. The last ‘recession’, about 10 years ago, was subsequently shown NOT to have been one at all. Meanwhile, statistics that are accurate at the time (jobs) look relatively healthy, with more people in economic work than ever in the history of the country.
I am not an apologist for the current Government, but I do wish that it was possible for there to be less grandstanding by all our politicians, who have to express extreme reactions to everything, who are not allowed to get away with the casual honest comment. Some of you may have been watching Borgen – the Danish version of West Wing – it would be so refreshing to have that relatively relaxed approach to government and politics here.
Recent reports have indicated that NHS institutions treat patients, especially old patients, badly – showing desperately low standards of care. However, there are so many emails and messages getting to the media about how good individual experiences have been – far outweighing all the (nonetheless legitimate) complaints of bad care. There can be no doubt that there needs to be far more effective supervision of front line carers (nurses and others), but we must not throw the baby out with the bath water. Moreover, in the calls for the radical improvement of the management of hospitals and other institutions, we seem to have overlooked that it is the Doctors and Consultants who seem to have had nothing to say – why have they not observed poor care, where it has existed, and not insisted on something better? How can old people die of starvation and cold in hospitals and no doctor notice what is going on? It is very easy to blame nurses. It is very easy to blame the managers – where in all this are those who are specifically and personally responsible for the treatment of the patient in all this – the doctors? Maybe I have got the emphasis wrong. However, the important factor is that somehow we need to make sure that all of us (not just the NHS) but all of us – because we all have someone(s) to care for – make caring more important than how we find the resources to do it.
The trouble is that we are so surrounded with the news that there is a dearth of resources, that we cannot do all the things we should or ought to do, that we believe it. Not true. We are richer than we have ever been (at least richer than we had ever been up to, say, 2005!) and we managed to care for our loved ones and for our not-so-loved ones up to then. We can still do so.
It requires something, of course. And every single one of us will have a different way of recognising what that something is. For me it is simple to say, but difficult to do, as all that is worthwhile is. As Christians, we use the word ‘love’, but it’s not an easy word to bandy about meaningfully, to those not trained or used to understanding how that word is used among the initiated. We all (that is Christians) know how to translate it into agape – a Greek word that gets close to what we mean but still begs all sorts of questions when it comes to a single individual trying to sort out how he or she is meant to live and contribute to society. So it is with some trepidation that I attempt to make it more helpfully meaningful to a wider world. Basically, whether we are trying to cope with the difficult financial conditions of today or with the need to care for those who are not as well off (health-wise, socially-wise . . not just financially-wise) as us, we need to be generous and tolerant, welcoming and forgiving, ready to apply the rules when strife or difficulties arise, but otherwise ready to bend them in order to do good. It’s so difficult to do these things in big institutions, but that is a difficulty we have to learn to handle!