Over the past few weeks, in amongst all the pain and suffering there have been many very uplifting stories of what people have been doing. Perhaps the most striking one has been that of Capt Tom Moore, the 100 yr old former army officer who raised £32 million for NHS charities in the days before his 100th birthday. Yet the words of a 42-year-old supermarket checkout manager have lodged in my mind just as clearly. She said she felt so proud that she wanted to go back in time to tell her school headmaster about the important job she was now doing during the corona virus pandemic. “I’ve never been more humbled to be a front-line worker, it’s a beautiful title’’.One of the many big lessons to be learned as a result of the pandemic is that we must continue to value the many people who work seven days a week to make our community function. To do so is particularly important for God’s people, for we are all made in the image of God, and there is no hierarchy of work in the Scriptures. The apostle Paul was clear that whatever we do, we are to do it all for the glory of God. Apart from those who are on the front line of the NHS and the emergency services, there is a host of people working all around us whom we have largely taken for granted for many years.
Carers at home and in the community; the Post Office staff; the delivery drivers; our shop workers and traffic wardens; those who collect and empty our bins and kerbie boxes; clean our buildings and our streets; those who maintain our roads, and keep our rail links and bus services operating; provide our electricity, water and gas services; ensure that our mobile phones and internet connections work properly; operate our food banks, our libraries and child care centres… And this list is just for starters.
Many of these workers are amongst the lowest paid, yet we cannot do without them. And many are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We value our surgeons, architects, doctors, teachers, lawyers, social workers, clergy, local journalists and many others in a wide variety of professions. It is right that we do so. But not at the expense of undervaluing the many others on whom they and we also depend. They are due proper pay for what they do, and the challenge of doing that will be a long haul, not least because our economy has shrunk dramatically, and the national debt incurred in supporting businesses and people will take decades to pay off. For example, just a few days ago it was reported that the government plans to borrow £225 billion from investors in just four months to fund the huge increase in public spending during the corona virus pandemic.
Yet decent pay is not everything that is needed. It seems so obvious to change the habits of a lifetime, and start to regularly say ‘Thank you’ to everyone who helps us through the day. It seems so obvious NOT to expect perfection in every service with which we are provided, and NOT to start complaining when things do not work out as we had hoped. After all, you are not perfect either – nor am I. We are unambiguously called to be channels of grace and graciousness to others, not least because we have been on the receiving end of such great grace from the Lord himself.
Is it too much to hope that one of the lasting results of the pandemic is that many more people will want to go back in time to tell their school headmasters about the important job they are doing, and how they are valued in doing it – crisis or no crisis? And that ordinary Christians will be at the forefront of making that an everyday beautiful reality?
Very Rev Dr Norman Hamilton is a retired Presbyterian minister and a former Moderator of the General Assembly.
Please note that the statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Contemporary Christianity.