‘Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.’ Og Mandino
She lit the candle, she sang a song, and then she went quiet. She gently touched the back of one of my hands. A Druid, a Pagan, a Christian, a Hindu? It didn’t matter to me. After several minutes she said she had concluded her prayer for me. Would the prayer ‘work’, would I be healed? Right there and then, what moved me to tears, was that she cared enough to go out on a limb, to make herself vulnerable, and be intentional for my sake. Right there and then, it was enough.
There is an old quote that I like: nanos gigantum humeris insidentes.
It translates as, ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’. It is said that Bernard of Chartres, some 800 years ago, used to compare us, metaphorically, to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we can see much more and much farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature. Because of them.
It isn’t often that I write about a government institution, but Thursday, 5 July 2018 sees the UK’s National Service (NHS) reaching the age of seventy years. I’m never sure about the politics of other countries, when it comes to medicine, but I can only say the NHS is a Godsend, much-loved by millions in the UK, and has saved countless lives, including mine.
Happy 70th Birthday, dear NHS
On 5 July, 1948, a nervous, and very ill girl, Sylvia Beckingham, then aged 13 years, was admitted to Park Hospital in Manchester with a potentially fatal liver condition. Until then patients, apart from the few that were fortunate to gain access to the few free hospital, would have to pay. Not so, little Sylvia. She was the first ever patient to be treated on the NHS.
‘He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” The Book, Luke 10:25-37
It’s not often that I laud a politician, but Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health in 1948 is to be praised for his foresight and vision, and passion to found the NHS despite opposition by some at the time. I am so pleased he overcome that opposition.
Aneurin Bevan was born on 15 November 1897 in Tredegar in Wales. His father was a miner and the family were poor and working class, and Aneurin (or Nye) grew up in a setting that gave him first-hand experience of the problems of poverty and disease.
In his early fifties, Aneurin Bevan, on 5 July 1948, true to his ‘calling’ ensured that the government of that day took over responsibility for all medical services and there was free diagnosis and treatment for all. The NHS was born that day, because of him.
Angels walk amongst us, and they can usually be found in hospitals wearing tabards with the word ‘volunteer’ on the back or chest, or wearing white, or blue, or green.
It’s not often that I talk about my medical history, but sometimes it’s right to mention it. Oh, there was that eleven days in hospital a few months ago, which turned out to be pneumonia. Then about seven years ago it was necessary for me to undergo a thyroidectomy. And about eleven years ago I was admitted to hospital as I had oesophageal cancer. That necessitated umpteen appointments, endoscopies, CT scans, three cycles of chemo, a massive operation, and several weeks of radio-therapy. Following that were umpteen check-ups, and even voice ‘lessons’ (as part of the oesophagostomy operation meant going in through the side of my neck to ‘tie things up, and it bruised by vocal chords).
No one at any time sat me down to talk about money and payment, because the NHS was, and is, free at the point of need. I had the best service from a myriad of caring professionals, and all that was discussed were operation procedures, recuperation, follow-up and the like, with much encouragement. Four and a half years later, I received the ‘all clear’.
If it were not for others, I wouldn’t be here. I suspect that that is the same for you. If not healing via a hospital, you are here because of others, nevertheless.
It might be fairly easy to ‘look back’ and imagine ourselves as part of a family tree, the web of life, and wonder. The next step, I would suggest is to ‘look forward’, to imagine future generations, as that tree grows, and what they might look like and do, because of us; and to imagine how they might be grateful to us as they look back at us.
‘Life is not a solo act. It’s a huge collaboration, and we all need to assemble around us the people who care about us and support us in times of strife.’ Tim Gunn
Yes, we are here because of others, and others in the future will be here and/or affected by us because of our actions and the legacy we carve out, in our words now, our thoughts, our rituals and prayers for healing and guidance etc. Because of you. You cared, you prayed, you lit incense, you performed a liturgy, and That Which Is Larger Than Us heard, and responded.
And so for a very dear friend, I lit the candle, sang a song, and then went quiet as I meditated, visualised an ‘inner caim’. I gently touched the back of one of their hands. A Druid, a Pagan, a Christian, a Hindu? It didn’t matter to to the person next to me. After several minutes I said that I had concluded my prayer for them. Would the prayer ‘work’, would they be healed? Right there and then, what moved them, I believe, was that I cared enough to go out on a limb, to make myself vulnerable, and be intentional for their sake. Right there and then, I believe it was enough.
What is true for me, I believe is true for you. Follow your passion. Don’t hold back.
‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’ Marianne Williamson