This was an exciting weekend as we delivered Steph to university for her first term. It was great to see such a suitable Hall of Residence, and to meet her flatmates. Toni and I felt emotional leaving her, but pleased for her. Steph just seemed excited!
On our return we stayed overnight near Ashbourne, and very much enjoyed walking around Dovedale on the Sunday with excellent weather.
Today I found myself wondering why I don't talk to my local councillor or MP about the things that I do not feel are right in our local area. Reflecting on this, I decided that it is because something in me does not believe that they can make a difference. So feeling that they are powerless, I allow myself to feel powerless too. Our local MP is a Conservative; we have a Labour Government. In these days when democracy in England seems to be about the Prime Minister telling MP's in his party how to vote, rather than ordinary MP's exercising collective influence, I am right to wonder how much influence an MP has – particularly one who is not in the ruling party. Reflecting further, it seems to me that my belief about powerlessness may be wrong, but that even if the belief is correct it is not helpful to accept it!
As I talk to people, it seems that many share a view that they can have little influence on the society that they live in. For example some think that the only influence they have on the world of politics is through voting in a General Election every five years or so. So we seem to have a culture of powerlessness.
If people feel powerless, who do they think calls the shots? As Margaret Mead, anthropologist, wrote: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Is she right?
The Bible develops a similar theme: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
I find Stephen Covey helpful on this to, as he writes in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People about how we are concerned about many things, but need to focus on those which we can influence. He says this will not only result in us having influence in those areas, but discovering that the number of areas in which we have influence will grow. This contrasts with the common habit of moaning about things which we don't think we can do anything about!
One of the strengths of coaching, which I do, is that it leads people to discover the action that they can take to bring about the changes that they want.
So, I've decided not to collude with a culture of powerlessness.
When I was praying the other day about the challenges of Climate Change, I was reminded of Jesus' “Summary of the (Jewish) Law.” He said love God with your whole self; love your neighbour as yourself; and then he explained that the whole law depends on (flows from, is subservient to) these two. (Matthew 22:40.) So life needs to be seen in the context of our relationship with Creator God and with other people.
If this was (is) Jesus' perspective on life; then it needs to be ours also.
Having been thinking along these lines, I found it interesting today to be given publicity for a day event at Gloucester Cathedral by Revd Steve Chalke MBE organised by the Spirituality Network for Gloucestershire. (4th October; 10.00-3:00.) The title is “Intimacy and Involvement” and the sub-title “Love God – Love others – nothing else matters.”
Isn't it great when someone writes a really clever and incisive letter to a newspaper?
Miss Christine Gilbert recently said that schools were let down by too many satisfactory teachers. This resulted in a letter to the Telegraph from Nicholas Bielby of Bradford (which I read in The Week today).
He writes that just as everybody cannot be above average, a good system works with satisfactory people performing satisfactorily – producing good-enough outcomes. There is something wrong with the system if it only works with excellent staff.