Hurstpierpoint College Senior Chapel Address for Harvest
Friday 2nd October 2020: Ecclesiastes 3.1-8
It is probably fair to say that it has not been an easy week for many of us for a variety of reasons. Not least because it is the mid-point of this half-term, and the summer is now well and truly behind us. The situation is not helped by the fact that there are not the normal things to look forward to: fixtures, concerts and plays; time with friends at the weekends, and holiday plans for half-term. At the moment, every day can feel a little bit the same.
As human beings, we need a structure, a rhythm. To our days, our weeks and our years. That is what our reading speaks about as well: there is, and there should be, a time for everything. In other words, we need occasions, we need things to celebrate.
Today, as we celebrate Harvest Festival, we have a good reminder that, although we may forget at times, there is indeed a lot to celebrate, a lot to be thankful for. I have been incredibly impressed over the last week how all over the campus wheelbarrows have started to fill up with gifts you have brought. So much so, that we had many of them overflowing.
Giving away a jar of peanut butter, a packet of biscuits ,or a tin of vegetables may not seem to make much of a difference, may not seem something to get very excited about. But it is, and it does make a difference.
In Marlborough, I was involved in the local Foodbank, similar to the one where our gifts will be delivered next week. A couple of years ago, it was a week or so before Christmas, we got a phone call from a social worker in one of the villages. Could we possibly deliver a box with food to a single father with three children? We got the address, and we went.
It is one of those moments I still dread. Knocking on the door of a house not knowing the person who will open the door. The only thing you know is that the situation is bad enough for them to need the help of a Foodbank. The only thing you know is that whatever is happening behind that door, at this moment, they have no money to buy any food.
So we knocked on the door. After a few moments it was opened by a man, probably in his forties. From the way he looked it was quite clear that his problems were substantial. He let us in, being incredibly grateful for the boxes of food and toiletries, and maybe even more for the fact that someone cared enough to try to help him.
He told us he had three daughters, who were at school. He had lost his job, and was looking for work. He wanted the best for his children, but found it hard to know how to do this. The boxes with food would help them for about three days, until his Universal Credit would come through. He couldn’t offer us a cup of tea or a biscuit, as there was nothing in the house he could offer. Yet, as we left, he asked ‘could I give you a hug?’. It was a hugely moving moment, as despite his vulnerability and lack of self-esteem, he realised, he could give of himself: his value as a human being was worth more than anything else he could give us.
We may have given this man a box of food and toiletries, but he has given me an insight that I will never forget: we all have something to give, we all have something to share. Our worth does not lie in what we have obtained or achieved, but our worth lies in who we are and what we do with that. The greatest give we have to give is ourselves. That insight is also at the heart of the Christian story, in which God gave himself to humankind by being born as a child and give his life on the Cross.
However, whether we are Christian or not, the insight that our worth is not given by our achievement, but rather the other way around, is hugely liberating. So think about it, how much you have shared this week. Not just the food you have brought in, but the times you have helped others on the sports pitch or in the classroom. The times you have said something kind to someone, or have held the door open. Those little things do make a real difference: to others and to yourself.
We may not have many big things to look forward to at the moment, to lift our spirits, but we have a lot of little things to celebrate, things for which to be grateful.
My challenge to you this month is each day to find something to be grateful for, something to celebrate. Your favourite pudding at supper, the sun breaking through during a sports session, a smile from someone you pass. Make a habit of celebrating the little things, and you will see that the rest will fall into place.