Next week we will celebrate harvest and support two charities as we do so. We will be taking donations for the Methodist charity ‘All we can’ and food donations for the local foodbank. More information about both is on our website and in our newsletter.
Various charities have reported their income has declined during lockdown so it is especially important to do what we can and be as generous as we can be at this time. Listening to the news reports that once again there has been panic buying as people fear another lockdown, I wonder about those people who each week struggle to make ends meet and for whom the food banks are a vital resource. Often the real need is hidden.
Some years ago I was in a community that was affluent and where there appeared to be few social problems. A family I knew through the church suffered the bereavement of a grandparent. One evening when I knew the parents would be home, after their evening meal and the children would be in bed I called on them. My visit took them by surprise.
They were regular attenders at church and active in several of the mid-week and after school events. As a family, they were always smartly dressed and the children had impeccable manners. My visit revealed a different side to their lifestyle. The house was chaotic, dirty, there wasn’t a space in the kitchen that wasn’t filled with dirty dishes and plates with dried food from past meals.
Initially, it was embarrassing and my inclination was to save them further embarrassment by chatting a few minutes, praying with them and then leaving. I didn’t. Looking back, I’m not sure why I didn’t but staying was the right thing to do. After a few minutes the atmosphere started to relax and the conversation lightened and it was at that point they acknowledged the mess and we talked about it. The explanation didn’t come that evening but once it started the conversation deepened as trust grew.
One of the parents was a functioning alcoholic and wouldn’t seek help. Fear and shame were preventing them doing what they knew they should do. It placed enormous pressure on the other parent who was unable to cope with all that needed to be done; the house was the casualty.
In the congregation of the church was a man who described himself as a recovering alcoholic. This family knew of him but wouldn’t approach him. I was in a difficult position. I could not speak to him or anyone else about the family for that would have been a terrible breach of trust, they needed help but wouldn’t seek it.
One morning I received a telephone call from the partner of the functioning alcoholic. The conversation started with the partner making me swear to answer a question truthfully. It was depressing that after my time as their Pastor they needed to be so emphatic about my truthfulness. It was a simple question: ‘Did you tell X about Y?’ I hadn’t but wasn’t convinced they believed me when I said so.
X had turned up unexpectedly at their home the previous evening. As he walked through the door into their sitting room, seeing the mess, he had burst into tears and hugged the alcoholic partner. He had known for some time what they were going through and had hoped they would approach him. That evening he’d had a strong urge to visit them and had gone.
I would like here to say that the story had a happy ending and all is well. Things are much better and there are improvements for the family. X took Y to his AA meeting and put the partner in touch with a group who are all relatives or friends of alcoholics and support each other. Y has gone from being a functioning alcoholic to a recovering alcoholic: struggling but most of the time open to being helped.
Why have I shared this with you?
1. Alcoholics Anonymous have reported a 300% increase in enquiries from people struggling with this addiction since lockdown in March
2. Alcoholics Anonymous are reporting a large increase in recovering alcoholics lapsing back into drinking since March.
3. One spokesman said of these facts: ‘It is probably just the tip of an iceberg.’
4. It isn’t just alcoholism that is a problem, there are many other situations affecting all age groups where help and support are needed
5. The family hid the truth from their many friends at church because of a fear of what people would say or think and shame at acknowledging there was a problem.
a. We are all broken people.
b. Not one of us has it all together, all have weaknesses and failings
c. Living with them is one thing, but when it affects others we need to be honest with ourselves and seek help
d. That person may not have the answer (in all likelihood they won’t) but sharing is a movement in the right direction
Heavenly Father we are all broken people, flawed and damaged by sin. You know each one of us, nothing is hidden from you: Whilst we were still sinners, Christ died. Help us with our pride and our determination to be seen to be independent, able to cope with whatever life throws at us. May we be open to each other and with each other; humble, caring, loving and have the courage to be vulnerable. Amen