BBC Radio 4 Prayer for the Day, 15 February 2017
Last year, I passed an old man on Westminster Bridge who was playing the mouth organ next to a sign that said: ‘No milk in the community hall. No heart in Parliament.’ When I asked him why he was playing what seemed like happy songs to such a statement, he said the only thing left to do was to remember the good times. That he’d been a good man once around good people. Now he had no job and didn’t know where he would sleep. I was really touched by that old man. He’d had friends and a community and both had gone.
C.S. Lewis wrote: ‘What draws people to friendship is that they see the same truth and share it.’ Lewis believed the love in friendship is fundamental to our wellbeing. ‘Friends,’ he wrote ‘are people sitting side by side facing a common goal. Communities are built on it.’ If that is true, then it must be that friendship is fundamental to how we run those communities and is at the very core of politics.
Aristotle believed that democracy was only useful in communities small enough for people who knew each other, looked after each other and lived through the consequences of their laws. We have a democracy for the whole country. And there are so many good people working tirelessly to help. So many good communities, but often forgotten, isolated or broken up.
I have no idea how to find the old man. But whenever I walk across Westminster Bridge I find myself looking for him. If I met him, I would stay a while and sit by him and thank him for reminding me for the vision of equals side by side working for a greater good and friendship being the heart of our community life.
Lord, may we rediscover our ‘mighty heart’. Amen.