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Word of the Year

“Act upon hope” Commoners Choir

Take a look at the first picture – you will be familiar with this by now, as I have used it twice previously this month. I have asked my daughter to adapt it in her own style for this week’s blog. For some reason, it’s has spoken to me in many ways this year. Something I have never noticed before but feels very much of this time, is the way that the Holy Family are all squashed in together inside the confines of their home – or stable. It makes me think about the experiences many of us have had of lockdown, thrown onto our own families in a new, more intense way as family members lose jobs, or work from home, are furloughed or on lockdown from school, or have to return after University or even during University when they hadn’t planned to. There is a sense of the walls closing in, a feeling that we have all had whether we live alone or with others. My sister, who freely acknowledges that she lives in a beautiful place and so has had a better lockdown than others will have had, still describes the Scottish island that she lives on as a ‘goldfish bowl’.

I cannot show the second image for copyright reasons. It is part of an animation based on a poem by Matt Harvey about covid, which my daughter worked on for the BBC, link here. The video frame that seems particularly relevant shows people thrown together, on top of each other and in each other’s space, referencing the poem’s lines “the people we are stuck with are the ones we must put up with”.

This meditation comes out at the end of 2020, at a traditional time of family get togethers – which as I’m writing in November – I cannot say will be happening or not when this is published. The ‘word of the year’ according to Collins Dictionary is ‘lockdown’. It is, as someone mentioned early on, an unhelpful term, because it rings of imprisonment. However, after nearly ten months of ‘lockdown’ in some shape or form, I’m sure that comparison is feeling a little close to the bone for more than a few.

So, I’m propositioning a new word for our year, and that is ‘hope’. Hope that we, as humans, can rise above the confines of our actual and internal lockdowns and find freedom, and that we can start to learn from what this year has taught us. That actually we need each other, not just in nuclear families but as a whole society, a community. That touch is necessary for health. That we can learn to be unselfish. That nature can be mended if we just lay off our incessant rat race. That those that have been forgotten by society are, in fact the most vitally needed members of it. That those roles and jobs we devalue are actually the most essential. That all lives matter but that systemic inequalities and injustices must be challenged. That as the Commoner’s Choir song says, “hope is feeling hopeless then finding hope again’. I’ll raise a glass to that!

Here’s a little word of wisdom from George MacDonald (apologies for the male centric terminology):

What God may hereafter require of you, you must not give yourself the least trouble about.

Everything He gives you to do, you must do as well as ever you can.

That is the best possible preparation for what He may want you to do next.

If people would but do what they have to do, they would always find themselves ready for what came next.

Take time to look at the pictures and consider these questions:

- What have you learnt this year?

- What do you hope for?

- What would be your ‘word of the year’?

Meditative activity:

You will need a piece of paper, pen and scissors

- Choose a word / saying/quote that has really spoken to you this year

- Write it on a piece of paper

- Cut up the quote or word and place the different words/ letters around your meal table maybe on Christmas Day or around this time, perhaps one per person as their place settings. If you live alone, try and arrange a phone call or other virtual get together with friends either over a meal or with drinks and send each friend the different parts of your saying/words

- During or after the meal/drinks, have a go at putting the words together to make the quote. Discuss if you like. Maybe ask everyone else what their word of the year would be.

- Toast hope!

This meditation is commissioned by Leeds Methodist Mission

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