Whitby Gazette 29th October 2020 Margaret Kirk
My first teaching appointment in a city secondary school in the 70s had me astonished to discover the head teacher kept a vast supply of children`s clothing in a cupboard in his study: coats, trousers, skirts, jumpers, cardigans and most essential of all – shoes.
Footwear was often flimsy and many arrived in the winter time in thin clothing. I remember it vividly. That head teacher would discreetly make sure a child returned home more warmly clad than he or she had been upon arrival.
That headteacher and that school weren`t alone in their acts of kindness and lack of warm clothing and decent food has always been with us though society has been good at hiding it. None more so than the families and children affected who wore their poverty as a badge of shame.
Now, in the approaching winter of 2020 it hits us solidly in the face. The pandemic has created inequality on a scale that it`s hard to imagine.
The teaching that comes from both Old and New Testaments won`t allow us to escape into denial. We can`t escape the insistence that it is our duty to care for those who are forced out to the edges of society. We are repeatedly told never to shun the poor and needy: “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy…..” Psalm 82
The commandment rings out throughout both Testaments, nowhere more eloquently than by Jesus in Matthew`s gospel when he declares that acts of kindness and caring are what defines the Christian spirit:
“for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
At this moment in time and as I write, there is a huge outcry to answer that commandment which comes from all that is best about our humanity and our religious tradition.