1580142910127 campbestival2017 dinglydell aw adam2643

Facing our fears

One of my favourite experiences, as a teacher, was taking my class away on the annual outdoor pursuits holiday. It was a great way for the children to discover new talents and for the class to bond together. For me, the best thing about the trip was observing how the children faced, and overcame, their fears. The fear may have been associated with staying away from home for the first time, or it could have been climbing a telegraph pole and descending via the zip wire.

My joy was seeing how the children supported and encouraged one another through to the point where they experienced success. I can remember the whole class cheering in unison for Jack, a very frightened little boy, as he jumped from a narrow platform to the trapeze, having just cried his way up every step of the very tall ladder. His courage inspired everyone and was a blessing to us all.

Fear seems to have been a constant theme through lockdown. Fear of catching the virus has caused many of us to be reluctant to leave home, fearful of entering shops or worried about travelling on public transport. Quite rightly, nobody wants to put themselves, or others, at risk of being infected by Covid-19.

Fear is a natural instinct and a normal reaction to dangerous or quickly changing situations. But as well as keeping us safe, fear can disable us. When fear is turned from a natural warning system into a normative way of being, living and acting, it can become destructive. Fear can drive us to build higher and higher walls between us and our neighbours in the hope that separation from others means security for ourselves.

Like the pupils on the adventure holiday, we need encouragement to face our fears. In my experience, encouragement has come, not when I've built walls, but when I've been vulnerable, revealed my anxieties and let the walls come down, being honest with myself and allowing my friends to see into my world. Then I have experienced the most empowering compassion and kindness.

Perhaps it is possible that our fears could be building blocks, not for walls of isolation, but for bridges of friendship. Over the past few months, even though many people have been fearful, they have also been amazingly kind. Neighbours, who may never have previously shared more than a short conversation, have looked out for each other, shopped for one another, shared resources and built friendships. Charities have seen a surge in people volunteering and a boost to their funds. Our local Foodbank has been overwhelmed by offers of help; the warehouse has never been so full nor the finances so healthy.

During a dark time in the life of St Paul, he was able to say that 'for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Corinthians 12:10). He had learnt that God's power is made perfect in our weakness. It is my prayer that we will not build walls but bridges, and that one day we will look back and say, that though they were fearful times, we became stronger both as individuals and as a community.

1580142910127 campbestival2017 dinglydell aw adam2643