‘Thought for the Week’ is a scheme organised through Churches Together in Woking. Every week one of the churches has the opportunity to submit a 150 word piece to Woking News and Mail.
“Respect the wide diversity among us in our lives and our relationships”
(From Advice and Query 22, Religious Society of Friends/Quakers)
We usually feel most comfortable with people we think are like ourselves. Sometimes however, we have to be in groups, such as at work or amongst our neighbours, where we may not feel we have much in common with others.
How do we react to people, especially if they are reluctant to engage with us?
We have choices. We can just keep to ourselves. Indeed it can be surprising that people who see one another briefly every day may not even say “hello”.
We need to use our faith to be more confident in talking to those who seem different from ourselves. They won’t all share our views. But how rich are the opportunities around us for learning about one another, feeling part of the human race and indeed having fun.
Jean, January 2015
No doubt many people were appalled last week to hear of the 71 migrants found dead in a lorry in Austria. We can only imagine what their last hours must have been like. The press often gives a very negative picture of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants. Quakers are enjoined to ‘Remember that each one of us is unique, precious, a child of God’ (Advices and Queries 22).
I suspect any of us, faced with war, persecution or grinding poverty would do all we could for ourselves and our families. Rather than condemning those whose lives have become so unbearable they feel they have no option but to leave everything and risk all the hazards and dangers of travelling by sea or overland, should not those of us who live comfortable, secure lives, in a country at peace and under the rule of law be considering instead what we can do to help?
Sheila, 10 August 2015
The refugee crisis is very much on many people’s minds at the moment and with so many sad stories like this in the news it’s very easy to feel disheartened and lose faith in life having any meaning or purpose. This is when I find that being part of a group of people who can provide friendship, understanding and support makes such a difference to me. For many of us, that support is provided by family, friends, clubs, or a place of worship. I feel very lucky to have my local Quaker Meeting to turn to every week and be able to have the quiet time to re-connect with an inner sense of purpose and also to talk about whatever I’m sad or happy about and encourage others to do the same. This year Quakers are celebrating fifty years in Woking and there will be a mini-exhibition at the Lightbox about them from 17th October until the end of the year. Whatever group you belong to, there will be someone who can help you and someone you can help, which is what makes life worth living.
Irene, 8 October 2015
Our shared humanity
How we treat our fellow human beings is one of the fundamental questions of life. George Fox, the first Quaker, spoke of ‘answering that of God in everyone.’ Recently, a group of us met to consider what this might mean for us.
The answer, of course, depends on who or what we understand by ‘God’; but taking as our starting point the aim of treating others with love and respect, we explored the things that prevent us from doing that.
What struck me was how easily we fall into judging people on their beliefs, behaviour or appearance. The moment we do this – or when we ourselves feel judged – the barriers go up and we cease to respond with kindness.
There is an exercise for reconciling people, in which we remind ourselves that the other person has fears, hopes and hurts, just like us. Whenever I find myself starting to judge someone, I want to try this exercise in my head. It’s a way of reminding myself of our essential shared humanity, which is much bigger than the things that divide us. That is what George Fox’s words mean to me.
Caroline, 29 October 2015
Love one another
Anyone who has been in a stationer’s or newsagent’s in the past few weeks cannot have failed to notice the Valentine’s cards. Some of us may have been lucky enough to receive one (or more!) from someone who loves us.
It is easy enough to love someone close to you, but sometimes more difficult if you do not share a person’s views or you disagree with their way of doing things. Jesus said ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’, but down the ages Christians have sometimes found it difficult to love one another – indeed have been anything but loving. And He went further, and said ‘Love your enemies’.
This is a huge challenge for all of us, but wouldn’t the world be a more peaceful place if we really made the effort to love everyone, including our enemies.
Sheila, 18 February 2016
Need a break from all the talking? This week has seen even more debates. Lively discussions can be useful, but when words are thrown about without anyone really listening, it all seems rather meaningless. Rather than leading towards greater understanding it can push people further apart as they become more determined to tread their own well-worn path.
Could it be that our own steadfast certainty of belief blocks our ears and minds to alternatives?
Maybe it is just that we don’t have time to listen or maybe we can’t bear the thought of changing our minds over something we have held dear for years. It is only natural to want to be consistent and not act out of character, but sometimes really good open-hearted listening is worth the risk.
Margaret, May 2016