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Ask yourself who are the people that support your everyday life – the list may be a surprisingly long one. The milkman, postman, parcel deliverer, bus or train driver, checkout assistant, bin man: it’s so easy to take them for granted. Let’s turn the spotlight on those who are busy in the background and still needed to go about their jobs, even in this time of social distancing. Our message? We notice you, we thank you, we respect you.
GREEN: If you need to go to the supermarket today, make a point of saying a big thank you to everyone who serves you. Look them fully in the face as you do, affirming their importance to you.
AMBER: If you know you’re expecting a delivery, leave a cheerful note or a treat for the delivery driver, postman or milkman.
RED: Who do you know that usually works in the background but through recent circumstances has lost their income? How can you offer encouragement, support or help for them during this time?
‘“Why have we fasted,” they say, “and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.’’Isaiah 58:3 NIV
On a normal weekday morning, before we were all asked to stay at home, many of us were usually swept along in the ‘rush hour’ as millions of people stream to work, do the school run, or pop out to the shops. At the same time, we may not have noticed the surprising number of people moving in the opposite direction. Who are they?
These are the people who have just finished their night or morning shifts and are going home, or onto another job. There is a ‘hidden army’ of workers who quietly keep our country ticking over – our cleaners, security guards and couriers to name just a few.
When you get to your office (or school or library) each morning, you’ll notice that someone emptied your bin last night. You may never meet them. Their invisibility works against them, as these ‘hidden workers’ are now amongst the worst paid and most ill-treated workers in the UK; after all, it’s much easier to cut the budget for a team of people you never meet. Over 5 million workers in the UK today are paid less than the Living Wage.
It’s not a new problem.
In today’s verse, the prophet Isaiah draws the attention of the worshipping congregation to a group of people whom the congregation appear to have discounted: the people they employ. How can you expect God to listen to your worship songs whilst you fail to offer basic respect and dignity to the people who work for you?
Our cleaners and couriers are not heroes or victims, just ordinary people. They don’t want charity or sympathy, just a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, and a bit of respect for what they do.
How can we reconnect with the hidden workers who serve us? Let’s show honor by serving those who usually serve us. How can we ensure that they are treated more fairly? Generosity also – sometimes – needs to work its way out through acts of justice.
Tim Thorlby is the Managing Director of Clean for Good. He lives in London and works on projects that seek to reconnect the church with enterprise in ways which are good for both.