I’ve been collecting today while playing Christmas carols - it is a big financial support that helps us to love our community. I saw a group of lads that I first met about a year ago, again while collecting, this time for TSA homelessness appeal. Today no response from them, but a year ago it was different. My encounter stimulated thought. Here is my reflection....
“…I hear them first, then I see intimidation in the eyes of the commuters walking that bit quicker. Seeing an opportunity for some cheap laughs the gang make their way over to me. They tease; my cap disappears, now a prop for mock marching. Bemused passer-by’s look on – as I join in, soon the laughter changes. No longer at me but with me. We talk, then they move on but they all dig out some change, the box gets heavier. “Safe” they call out as they move into the crowd. I smile pretending I know what they mean!”
“Their urban wear is the same as George's, a hooded, baseball cap wearing, mumbling, six foot 18-year-old gangling street youth. In our time at Poplar we have come to recognise the shame of our culture that only expects bad of this member of our society. George is a member of our church family. Our community. He comes to our youth club and from time to time he comes for a cup of tea after the meeting.”
“I start to think of well meaning visitors asking if our new building and programme is value for money. I think of the shame of our church culture that is caught up in trying to measure success in terms of processing people through our church culture. Value for money? In our time at Poplar we have come to recognise that it is only kingdom values that matter.”
“The teenage lads are long gone as I smile and recall a hooded and baseball cap clad George taking the eldest member of our congregation home. I think of the value for money tag as I remember him mumbling how he’d gone into the flat tidied it up, made his bed and left him with a cup of tea. Value for money? Kingdom values? Immeasurable.”