A well-known supermarket’s advertising tagline is “Every little
helps.” Whenever I see this phrase I can’t help mentally removing the initial ‘E’ – so that it reads “Very little helps.” As the season of Harvest Thanksgiving is now upon us that adjusted phrase assumes yet further meaning as we consider how our very small contributions of harvest gifts combine to make a very big difference to other people’s lives.
This year the St. Paul’s harvest gifts will be sent to the charity Hampers of Hope. We already have a big red dustbin in our porch in which we collect contributions throughout the year for the foodbank run by Hampers of Hope. According to the latest figures from the Trussell Trust’s UK foodbank network, 1,182,954 3-day emergency food supply packs were provided nationally by foodbanks to families in crisis in the year to March 2017.
This compares to 1,109,309 packs provided in the previous year. In the latest year, nearly 450,000 packs were supplied to children. This scale of food poverty is unprecedented in the post-war period. The Trussell Trust also reports that in areas of the country in which the new system of Universal Credit has been rolled out (fully or partially), the impact on the demand for foodbank supplies has been severe.
You might ask whether it is right that in 21st Century Britain charitable organizations, including churches, should have to step in to fill evident gaps in the country’s welfare system. My own answer to this question is ‘If not us, then who?’
Hampers of Hope is a local charity founded by local businesswoman (and committed Christian) Cristel Berridge, whose vision is to help to meet the needs of people in crisis but not to stop there. As well as providing emergency food hampers, the charity also offers community meeting space to help overcome problems of social isolation, with life-skills classes and money management counselling alongside.
On the day I visited one of the charity’s centres in Wilmslow I shared a delicious vegetable curry cooked by a recent graduate of the life-skills classes. Some of you will remember that Cristel and members of her team visited us at St. Paul’s in May and shared their vision of restoring hope and dignity to people in crisis in Jesus’s name. The charity has a foodstore and distribution centre close to St. Paul’s and your harvest gifts, together with those from Puss Bank School, will quickly reach their intended recipients.
We aim to strengthen our ties with Hampers of Hope in the coming months, in keeping with our 2020 Vision objective of serving our local community. Doing this in partnership with other organizations is a key part of our strategy as it enables us to draw on external expertise and make the use of our resources more effective.
The story of the Widow’s Mite (Mark 12.41-44) reminds us that even though we may have very little ourselves, God honours the little we are able to give, recognizing that it may involve considerable self-sacrifice. Combining our small gifts together (with a portion set aside for those we know of in our parish who could do with a little extra help) produces a very big impact. This really is a case of “Every little helps”!