Today’s challenge is one that I do feel strongly about, but like most of us haven’t ‘got around’ to doing anything. I knew that it was difficult for girls and women in places of great poverty in the world but in recent months have become aware of the stigma and girls having to spend their periods in a hut or shed!!! Terrible situation and I am glad that people are working at ending it. But to read about girls in this country of relative wealth are suffering from lack of sanitary products was a sharp slap in the face of my complacency.
How could I, who has been a vicar in a church with a food bank and spoken with the women who use it and known that the homeless women struggle be blind to the need of school girls in families that are struggling to make ends meet? It should be blatantly obvious to me, who knows about food banks and been in an urban priority area parish where the head teacher of the primary school deals with all sorts of social problems of families, that there will be older pupils who miss school because they cannot afford sanitary products.
Today I do feel challenged because I have been aware of it for a while but not done anything more than share Facebook posts about it. Today I will find out where our nearest food bank is and ask if they give out sanitary products. (I moved into the area last June and so that has been a low priority need.)
As I had my prayer time this morning I sat in silence for 5 minutes, as has become my practice since leading school pupils in Mindfulness. And I was thankful for God’s love, I prayed for the girls I had seen on Wednesday and remembered how they had started to open up and share with me the difficulties and stresses of being teenaged girls now. It is a long time since I was there – 1970s was my era. But the same tensions remain – boys’ immaturity, pressure to conform, raging hormones etc. I also reflected upon the talk I gave last night to the Mothers’ Union about my journey to ordained ministry, starting with my fairly normal childhood, through troubled teenage years and suffering depression as a young mum. At the end of the talk we fell into conversation and I was asked questions about my first husband and the breakdown of that marriage. So it is not surprising that when I read today’s set bible readings and meditation from the Northumbrian Community I was reminded of God’s love and Grace in bringing me out of some very difficult years into the place I am now with my husband, Terry.
The readings and reflection (which is part of a one-month cycle) are:
Psalm 23:3-4 He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Joel 2:25 I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten– the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm– my great army that I sent among you.
John 4:28-30 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
You need to be generous to yourself in order to receive the love that surrounds you.
You can suffer from a desperate hunger to be loved.
You can search long years in lonely places, far outside yourself.
Yet the whole time, this love is but a few inches away from you.
It is at the edge of your soul, but you have been blind to its presence.
We must remain attentive in order to be able to receive.John O’Donohue
When a great moment knocks on the door of your life,
it is often no louder than the beating of your heart,
and it is very easy to miss it.Boris Pasternak
We sang The Lords My Shepherd at our wedding in 2013, and I did have a sense of God giving me back the years the locusts have eaten. Although now I don’t see those years as wasted at all. They have all contributed to who I am now. I am able to give support to other women, and to girls, with understanding and compassion. I hope it is also with the compassion that Jesus has for them, as I have experienced his healing and compassion in my life – he knows all about me and he loves me and is transforming me. This all seems appropriate for today, International Women’s Day.
Although today is my day off, I have contacted our church warden and enquired about a food bank box in church and about sanitary products. She informs me that we give food at harvest to Cheadle food bank and that the middle school has supplies from Lillets freely available for the girls, so that’s OK. Next time our PCCs meet to discuss our mission plans I will raise the subject of a box in church for the local food bank and see if we can get a volunteer to collect and deliver the things, which I hope will include sanitary products.
As I went off to shop for new shoes I contemplated all the women who have helped and supported me during my life. I have decided that I will send each one a Thank You card during Lent. It would be too much to try and do them all today but I will start a list and include what it is about them that I am thankful for. I am grateful for their support, love and help and am perhaps not forthcoming enough with saying thank you.
As today draws into evening I look forward to some time with Terry watching the tele and finishing off a Chinese Takeaway left over from a couple of nights ago. Perhaps we will catch up with Sunday night’s episode of Call the Midwife – another reminder of how women’s lives have changed for the better within my lifetime.