I am writing this with just five weeks to go before leaving the EU at the end of March. Or will we……? This has been a difficult time for our country. We seem to be such a divided people.
What was it the Queen said? “As we look for new answers in the modern age, I, for one, prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture”. These words were spoken at Sandringham Women’s Institute Centenary, but they are understood to refer to the social and political division caused by the Brexit vote. Well, I hope so anyway.
Some see Brexit as a cause for celebration, others see it as a cause for lamentation. People here may disagree about our prospects, so maybe we need, at this time in our national story, another, older story that chimes with the Queen’s words and may offer us some hope and a possible way forward.
The Book of Ruth in the Bible is the story of a widow in a foreign land at a chaotic, turbulent time. Newly arrived in a strange country she must have wondered how she would be treated.
In the four short chapters of this dramatic Biblical book, we read about the courage of Ruth, and how, crossing political, gender and linguistic borders, she practises courage and brings out kindness in others.
In Ruth’s remarkable story, kindness becomes a political word: a word to be used in the decisions about economics and immigration. This is an old story for our modern times.
In a time when borders and belonging are being discussed it is interesting to consider what the serious practice in politically divided times might look like.
The serious business of kindness, care and goodwill is neither saccharine or sweet. It is exhausting.
It demands negotiation, compromise, confrontation, the declaration of hurt and the determination to find a way forward that hurts the fewest people. It requires the practice of hospitality and welcome in times of hostility.
Kindness doesn’t cover over the past. It does, however, propose something for now that might make the future different.
So, as we navigate our future, our belonging and our place in Europe and the world, maybe the old story and wisdom of Ruth might help us. We need to know that policy alone won’t save us. Policy has its place, but is never the final word, so whatever our future, we will always need courage…… and kindness.