… ‘And laid him in a manager because there was no room at the inn.’ Luke 2:7
We all know the tale so let’s forget the theological and philosophical sides of it. After all there are far wiser men than me to comment on it.
So unmarried Mary falls pregnant; her partner Joseph, a carpenter, was born in a town other than where they lived; a census was called that made him and his heavily pregnant girlfriend travel back to the city of his birth, Bethlehem, and so on… .
But have you ever stopped to think about one of the seemingly minor characters of the piece? The inn-keeper, and the pivotal role played in the plot.
The one person who, when everyone else shuns the main characters, offers his stable for the night. Note he didn’t squeeze them in somewhere, or have a last minute cancellation, or see a way to make a quick buck (or shekel) at vastly over-inflated price; or let them bunk in a corridor, or offer his own room. Instead he offered them the lowliest place in his ownership, a stable.
Lowly yes, small yes, probably very smelly but still a humanitarian act of kindness; something given at no cost, something that none of the other nimbys of Bethlehem had offered to the in-need couple. In one simple gesture that inn-keeper created the scene for arguably the greatest story ever to begin. One where the boy really does come good.
The other day I overheard an owner of modern day inn; one that offers all you can drink nights for a set fee (you know the kind of place). He was bleating about the state of the streets near his establishment; about how rubbish, vomit and worse littered them each night, about how the homeless drunks and drug addicts loitered about the town, how bad it all was for his business, how he paid his rates and the authorities were doing nothing to help him and his emporium, and why no action was being taken to move all these undesirables on to another town. I have no doubt that in the town where said bar-keep wanted them moved to, the same nimbyism was being blurted out by similar vendors. No care or compassion, no thought that in some small way they may have contributed to the societal maladies they were complaining about.
No room at their inns …
I am not suggesting these patrons should offer a room out back, but the vast majority of these displaced people didn’t ask to be where they are. Circumstances took them there. Many have mental health problems, substance misuse issues and simply moving them on solves nothing.
As the season of peace and goodwill to ALL descends perhaps it is time for us all to reflect and give thanks for what we have; to spare a thought for those less fortunate than ourselves.
Everyone that needs it should be gifted the Power to Create their own unique wonderful story; rather than saying ‘there’s no room at the inn’.
And that’s why people like Russell Brand (the Marmite man) continue to crusade for the unjust and downtrodden. Despite making headlines for other reasons, and his enervating appearance on BCC’s Question Time; which was more akin to that other great seasonal tradition, pantomime. Love him or loathe him, Brand seems determined to make positive change happen.
But because it’s not quite so headline grabbing many may have missed BBC Three’s documentary ‘Russell Brand: End the Drugs War’. This showed a side much more enlightening than the cameo charade on QT. Brand’s passion and outspokenness on UK drug law is well documented but his performance in this documentary was much more nuanced and sagacious than his normal brash abrasiveness. And the most insightful part of the hour long show was when he stepped aside to allow others to tell their own stories.
Their stories reminiscent of one told to me recently.
The story of person; disowned by their family; given up on by friends; told by a mental health team they couldn’t/wouldn’t be helped until their alcoholism was addressed; had their child taken in to foster care; had seriously self-harmed; tried, more than once, to kill themselves; and, had tried, time and time again, to find recovery from their addiction. They had lost everything and just about given up. Then, while on a bus journey home, to the rented room that they were being evicted from, as they pleaded on the phone, in tears, to their family not to disown them; explaining that they were trying their hardest to get abstinent when something wonderful happened.
A little pre-Christmas miracle…
As they spoke about their battle with the booze they were approached by a stranger, who was alighting from the bus. The stranger stopped besides them and put a folded piece of paper in their hand. On it was a hastily scribbled note. It read:
“I don’t know you. But I heard your conversation. Well done!! I am proud of you! Believe in yourself and you can do anything. I wish you all the best. Stay strong! X”
That person is now in recovery.
It’s why, be it through word, thought or action, we should all find room at our inns.