Step by Step

One of my favourite TV presenters is a man called Simon Reeve. He usually presents travel shows and he has explored many exotic and interesting places around the globe. He has a very warm and engaging manner and always seems to engage with local people and get to the heart of the reality that faces them.

He is not afraid to challenge injustice and has exposed the way poor people are being exploited for cheap labour, as well as many worrying climate and environmental issues.

His most recent series, filmed during lockdown, was about Cornwall and I’ve only seen one of the two parts to date. He highlights important issues, like the lack of affordable housing and food poverty and how the current pandemic has impacted those who are normally employed in tourism. He has revealed the extent of food poverty in one of the most attractive regions of Great Britain and the lack of long term employment options and the mass migration of young Cornish people because of a lack of opportunity near home.

A couple of years ago Vicky bought me Simon’s autobiography for Christmas and, knowing how much I enjoy his programmes, she got me a ticket to go hear him speaking about his travels in the Ulster Hall. We were enthralled as he shared something of his personal story, as well as recounting memorable experiences from his travels around the world and it was a real joy to meet the man himself after the event and he signed my book!

Without giving it all away, Simon struggled with his mental health as a teenager and found a very unlikely path into journalism. He had a couple of significant breakthroughs through his knowledge of a specialist subject that enabled him to break into television presenting.

He didn’t have a university education or academic background and his love for travel only began in his twenties. He deliberately titled his memoir ‘Step by Step’ because everything in life begins with a single step. He spoke of his first solo journey on a train to Scotland. He made this journey at a time when everything was falling apart in his life. He had been unemployed and depressed and lacked confidence in himself, but making the journey step by step was a huge breakthrough.

The subtitle of the book is ‘The life in my journeys’ and he speaks most powerfully of people that he has met and how they have inspired him, whether they are reindeer farmers in Siberia or migrant workers from Africa living under plastic sheets in Spain, or religious leaders in Burma or wherever.

One of the challenging things about trying to lead during a pandemic is that the goal posts are constantly changing. It’s the same if you are a government leader, a business owner, or a church leader.

You make plans and you have to preface them all with the knowledge that the restrictions may draw these plans to a halt at very short notice. What I have been trying to do is take a leaf from Simon’s book and simply focus on the next step. With any longer term or big project there are various structures to set in place to make things work and, while progress may seem painfully slow at times, we have to focus on putting the building blocks in place before we launch.

This is where the life of faith has a great deal to teach us. The apostle James challenged those who had great plans to do business and make profits that none of it is certain. The apostle Paul, in trying to spread the Word of God on his missionary journeys, found his route to Asia being closed and having to act on a vision to go to Macedonia instead. Jesus himself urged his disciples to not become ensnared in worries but to go a day at a time reminding them that each day has trouble enough of its own.

If our goal is to extend the kingdom of God and to share His life and His love with others, what are the best ways we can do that? Is it through our daily work whatever that might be? Is it through sowing seeds in the lives of those we have influence over, whether they are colleagues at work, neighbours, family and friends? What are the next steps we could take that might contribute to that goal? Might it be to phone someone we haven’t spoken to in a while or drop them a text? Might it be to share a book or an idea that has influenced us recently? Might it be to pray for people who are on our hearts for a particular reason?

Last Friday was World Kindness Day. I wasn’t aware of the fact until my phone pinged on my way into the house after the school run. A friend, who lives in the south of Ireland, sent me a little message which said, ‘On World Kindness Day I wish that life always reaches out to you in many unexpectedly kind and generous ways.’ It was a very helpful message to receive as I was burdened by the worries that can creep in and overwhelm. The news was full of people being antagonistic towards one another, whether it was here in Stormont, or in the United States. Job losses were being announced, people I care about were going through difficult times and someone took a step to break in with a little bit of light.

Let’s work our way through all the challenges of the present time by taking one more step. Sometimes we don’t feel we have the strength or the energy, but God gives us the courage. Maybe he uses others to help us take the next step. Sometimes we don’t know where it’s leading or what we are doing, but we are a community of faith. We support one another. We pray for one another and we seek to make Jesus known in all we do.

Looking forward to speaking again soon.

Much love to everyone,

Jono.