Friday 13th November.
Today’s reflection from Ann Hair
Vulnerability and Marginalisation
On a beautiful Autumn morning, set against a crystal- clear blue sky, the pale golden light illuminated the decaying leaves of summer with russet, gold and reddish tones. Underfoot the spent and fallen leaves crackled and crunched like giant golden cornflakes. The intensity and heat of summer had given way to a mellow tranquillity and a squirrel contemplated the acorn it held as if in praying hands. Nature had once again captivated me with her beauty reminding me of a previous encounter with a squirrel on the Isle of Wight.
Walking along a cliff path a sudden movement caught my attention. A small red squirrel had scurried across the path and stopped almost in front of me. It seemed quite oblivious to my presence and stayed so still that I was able to gaze at it intently. Holding my breath and standing perfectly still so as not to endanger this precious moment, I noticed its beautiful chestnut coloured fur and large bushy tail etched with white, shimmering in the sunlight. The squirrel turned in my direction and transfixed me with its bright and alert shiny dark eyes. Stealthily I raised my camera so as to capture this moment but realization soon dawned that there was a human present. At the bleep of my camera it flicked its tail and disappeared into a nearby tree. I was left feeling sad that it had gone so quickly yet elated at having seen my very first live red squirrel.
The red squirrel is a protected species having been marginalised to certain areas of the British Isles by the stronger and more aggressive American grey squirrel. Fortunately, the Isle of Wight provides a safe haven where the native red can flourish thanks to much hard work and dedication from local conservationists.
Remembering the squirrel invokes the sense of amazement and delight I felt at seeing it so close by. There is so much beauty that surrounds us in the natural world that it is balm for our souls to connect with it. If we will but take the time to ‘stop and stare’ we will be amazed by what we see.
Reflecting more deeply on the squirrel’s image, thoughts about vulnerability and marginalisation turned over in my mind and I began to recall the incident in the gospels when Jesus welcomes the little children to him.
‘Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs”. And he laid his hands on them and went on his way’.
The disciple’s behaviour appears to be quite harsh. Surely it would do no harm to allow these children access to Jesus. He may have been tired and in need of rest and the disciples were trying to protect their master. Jesus reacts strongly to his disciples and rebukes them with the radical statement, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs”. As if to press home his point he then goes a step further and lays his hands in blessing upon the children. Later in the parable of the Lost Sheep he warns again of the dangers of discounting the ‘little ones’. “Take care you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven”. He finishes his parable with the words, “So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost”.
The disciples undoubtedly meant well but had failed to remember the countless incidents when Jesus makes it clear that it is the vulnerable and marginalised who hold a special place in his heart.
Many years have passed since Jesus walked in Galilee among those whom the rich and powerful despised but still his heart is drawn to those who are marginalised and vulnerable in our communities today. Through his unconditional and healing love Jesus holds out to everyone no matter what their position or status in society the chance to hold their heads high, to ‘stand up and walk’. How he must have rejoiced when during lockdown the values of his kingdom were evident as those working for the minimum wage, in some of the most mundane and risky jobs were finally awarded the value and worth they deserved. When the undervalued NHS and care home staff were afforded grateful and heartfelt recognition for their selfless care of their patients and residents. The concept of power was turned upside down as ‘the first became last and the last became first.’