As we enter this hugely challenging time where people are heavily reliant on others to offer support and perhaps deliver food, essential supplies and medication to those who are self-isolating, it is such an up-lifting experience to see how kind and thoughtful people can be in times of crisis. But perhaps we overlook too easily the regular on-going care which is provided by unsung heroes on a month by month and year by year basis.
This is summed up superbly in a poem which I read earlier today, written by the poet/song writer/ priest Malcolm Guite. I first came across Malcolm Guite’s poetry a few years ago when a friend sent me Guite’s excellent Lent and Easter book (The Word in the Wilderness) which provides a daily poem and a thought to reflect on. Last month I bought a second book of his poems which particularly concentrates on the sayings of Jesus in a modern and yet timeless context, and this is where I discovered the following gem:
A Sonnet for the Unseen
So much goes unseen and stays unsaid,
So much that carers keep within their hearts;
The children who get parents out of bed,
Already tired before their school day starts,
The neighbours who keep giving up their time,
To add a daily round of extra care,
Veronicas who cleanse the sweat and grime,
And those whose gift is simply being there,
The patient partners lifting up a cross
To bear the burden their belovèd bears,
Who ease each other through the pain and loss
And feel that no one sees, and no one cares.
But there is One to hear, to feel, to see
And He will say ‘ye did it unto me’.
Malcolm Guite, Parable and Paradox, Canterbury Press, 2016 page 11
When Malcolm Guite wrote this poem a few years ago, I suspect he (and the rest of us) could not have imagined how our world would be turned upside down in a matter of weeks by the raging onslaught of Coronavirus. He was focusing on the huge contribution of loving kindness which is so often shown to us in the caring concern which parents, neighbours, partners, carers and health professionals demonstrate on a daily basis. But reading this poem for the first time today, it struck me forcibly that now above all times, we are deeply indebted to our neighbours (whether or not they live anywhere near us) who offer us a quiet hand of support, and in doing this for us, they are doing it for Christ himself.
Sarah Bourne – 19th March 2020