Standing in the Right Place

“The strategy of Jesus is not centred on taking the right stand on issues, but in standing in the right place – with the outcast and those relegated to the margins”

– Father Gregory Boyle, Homeboy Industries

Three weeks ago I stood in the early morning rain outside of a crematorium in the North East of England with a small knot of friends in quiet prayer and reflection. Together we were taking part in a small act of solidarity, and of gentle protest against an event which felt more 19th than 21st Century.

We were there to mark the passing of a man called Peter, and of what was intended to pass as a committal. Whilst it didn’t define him – indeed the details were unknown to most people until the very end – Peter had been homeless in the last years of his life. He had died the week before in a local hospital, without family or anyone able or willing to take responsibility for funeral costs.

Despite our best efforts to gain permission to enter the crematorium to hold our quiet vigil, we were standing outside because hospital protocol denied us and any other friends unable or unwilling to pay the thousands of pounds required for a funeral the right to join the undertakers and the hospital chaplain beside Peter’s coffin at the end.

As a concession to our determination to be there, the authorities had reluctantly allowed one of our group – and one only – to stand with the coffin for the three or four minutes that it took to load and dispatch it. They were not happy about this. Fears of funerals on the cheap and uncertainty about the beliefs of the deceased had been hinted at in the days before as we made our case for being allowed to attend. Arguments about tough spending choices and a prioritisation for care for the living were made.

And yet our presence inside the crematorium building for 15 or 20 minutes would have made no difference whatsoever to the cost of what happened there that morning. As it happens, Peter’s friends knew that he was a Christian, and so a simple Christian burial would have been possible. But regardless of whether his faith had been known or not, whether Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic or other, there was no need to leave him alone, or to allow his passing to be unmarked.

In a not entirely unkind attempt to outline what was set to happen that morning and to perhaps dampen our conviction about being there in places that the lashing rain had not yet reached, the undertaker explained that this was “more of a disposal than a funeral”.

More of a disposal than a funeral. What has our society become? How do we now value human dignity to such a poor extent that the end of someone’s life is regarded as a disposal if they don’t have the financial means to provide otherwise?

Yes, care for the living should be our priority. But how did we get to the point where our choice was either care for the living or dignity and recognition for those who have passed? We have to aim for better than that.

And in truth, our society had let Peter down long before this last indignity. That he had been sleeping rough under bridges and in abandoned buildings for the last nine months of his life was an even bigger affront to the inherent worth of his humanity, created in the image of God like every one of us.

There is a plaque on the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbour which contains a sonnet that I have reflected on in the weeks since the events that I describe here. The second verse reads:

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

That the current President of the United States is actually intent on building a wall to keep out these huddled masses tells us a great deal about the state the world in 2018.

In our work at Oasis Aquila Housing we are determined to be a place of hope, both for our staff who see untold horrors on a day to day basis, and of course for those whom we serve, whether they are seeking safety from domestic violence, are sleeping on the streets, are stuck in a cycle if joblessness or have suddenly found themselves homeless.

As it happens, we are a charity with a Christian ethos. But we serve anyone who needs us because we recognise the inherent worth of all people.

In a statement which has reverberated through the ages, Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

And so, the question that all of us are left with as we mull our response to what society has become is this: where will we stand?

 

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Never Give Up

I don’t like the word Homeless. It reduces people to a deficit. It identifies them in terms of something that they lack. Of course, it has a purpose. Like the advert, it does what it says on the tin, describing a circumstance in which someone can find themselves. Increasingly it describes a phenomenon that, no matter where you live, is visible. Homelessness is a societal issue, and it has common – often political – causes and consequences. But at its heart it is a deeply personal problem, unique to the person it is affecting in a given moment: there are as many sides to homelessness as there are people who are homeless.

As the prevalence and awareness of homelessness grows in our towns, cities and our national conversation, every month brings a shocking new statistic. In November 2017 it was revealed that the number of homeless people in the UK had risen to 300,000, larger than the population of Newcastle. In January we learned that the Government’s rough sleeper count showed that 4,751 people were sleeping rough on a given night, a 15% increase since the previous year.

But the danger of these overwhelming statistics, in an echo of Stalin’s famous phrase, is that they mask the tragedies and travails of individuals affected by homelessness.

More importantly, they also mask the potential of people who find themselves homeless. Homeless people are just that: people. How easy it is to take a wide berth round that woman in the sleeping bag, in the doorway on the High Street. How natural to write off the man swaying and slurring in the corner of the shopping mall. And how common to think, that these portrayals of homelessness are the archetype. The fact is, they’re not. Most people experiencing homelessness are families shunted from temporary solution to temporary solution. But one common thread we must hold onto regardless is the humanity of the person affected.

At Oasis Aquila Housing, our vision is for everyone to be part of a community where they are included, belong and have what they need to reach their God-given potential. And we regularly see impossible situations transformed for good.

This week two of our team were at a speed networking event in a job centre near one of our Basis drop-in projects. Our team had 8 minutes with each department telling all of the staff there about Basis and the work we do. At the end an adviser approached them and said she had a man in last week who she’d seen two years previously. Two years ago Andrew* was sleeping rough, desperate and suicidal. She said he was a complete mess: emotionally, mentally and physically. She signed him on and sent him to Basis. When she saw him last week she didn’t recognise him until she pulled up his notes. It turned out that in the period since he’d last been in he’d been to Basis, had a shower, used the laundry, got clothes and food, and was supported into accommodation and employment. He was only at the job centre as he was between temporary contracts and was due to start a new job in a couple of days. The adviser couldn’t believe the difference in him and was very keen to stress that Basis had saved his life.

The credit for this transformation goes first and foremost to Andrew, the man at the heart of the story. It also goes to show that no-one should be written-off, that our hopefulness is well-placed, and that our perseverance matters.

Next time you come across a person affected by homelessness, think of Andrew, and what’s possible when we focus not on what we lack but what we have, not on what separates us but what we have in common.

 

*Not his real name

Bright as the Stars

It’s been a challenging week. More than that, with the events in Manchester, it’s been a tragic week. Our thoughts and our prayers have been with those who have lost loved ones, those whose loved ones have been injured, and everyone who has been affected by a senseless act of violence.

On Thursday, people all around the country will stop at 11am for a minute’s silence in response to the Manchester attack. It’s right that we should do this, even as we feel powerless and overwhelmed by the mounting tragedies around us: Manchester, Westminster, Paris, Stockholm, Mosul, Aleppo, Yemen – the list seems endless.

In my work leading a Homelessness charity, I regularly encounter people who have been pulled under by the riptides of tragedy. Indeed the rest of the staff encounter difficult and moving situations that our service users are facing far more than I do, and yet carry on.

And I still have hope. For me, my faith in Jesus reminds me that all things – no matter how dark – can be redeemed.

MLK

One of my heroes is Rev Martin Luther King Jr. In 1968, at the height of the struggle for freedom and equality for African-Americans – a struggle for which he had been imprisoned, beaten, humiliated, slandered, and which would ultimately cost him his life – King said the following in a speech in Memphis, Tennessee. He described an imagined conversation that he might have with God in which he could choose any point in history to live;

“…Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy.” Now that’s a strange statement to make because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.”

 The world is still messed up. Our circumstances may be difficult. But we can see the stars brighter than ever. And I’m glad I’m living in 2017.

In the long run, we are all dead

It was famously John Maynard Keynes who uttered the phrase,

“In the long run, we are all dead”.

Since I returned recently from meeting refugees in Jordan, his axiom has been wedged in my mind.

On face value, Keynes’ pronouncement could be understood as a theological, even existential statement. And a pessimistic one at that: if we’re all heading in one direction, what’s the point in trying to change anything?

Sitting on the floor of a run-down apartment in a run-down suburb of Amman, listening to the story of the family of Syrian refugees who lived there, it was hard not to become pessimistic. We had gone there as representatives of Bible Society, taking a package of food and essential items at the request of the family themselves and on the recommendation of mutual friends. Yusuf, Aisha* and their two young daughters used to live in a suburb of Damascus, one in which they and other Sunni Muslims lived peaceably with Shia Muslims, Christians and Alawites. Theirs had been a normal, lovely family life. In Damascus, Yusuf had his own business, making and selling shoes.

But one day in 2013, life was rudely interrupted when the civil war brought death to their neighbourhood, in the shape of the Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters.

Through a veil of tears, Yusuf told me how these brutal soldiers behaved like animals, beheading two of his Christian neighbours. Yusuf escaped with his life, although not before he witnessed a massacre and was himself shot in the leg. He and his family fled to another part of Syria, eventually making it to Jordan and to the squalor, unemployment and despair in which they now find themselves.

As I write these words, the facts take on a strange unreality. I have to remind myself that these events really did happen. Looking Yusuf in the eye was enough to confirm it.

In the long run, we are all dead.

The truth is Keynes, the Economist, was making an optimistic case for taking action when the economy was failing and people were suffering unemployment and hardship. His was an injunction to do something, to take action, to believe in a better alternative, to not submit to despair and powerlessness. It was a statement of faith and of hopefulness.

Yet there is another, deeper, place of faith, and of hope, compared to which the hope of Economics is a mere shadow. It’s the reason why we were sitting in that apartment in a slum in Amman with a family who had been though more horror and hardship in a few months than I expect to have in an entire lifetime.

As he thanked us for the food parcel, Yusuf asked me why we had come. I was able to tell him of a Great Commandment, of an injunction to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves, of a view of the world in which we really are our brother’s keeper, whoever and wherever in the world he is.

And I was able to offer a message of hope to him and his family;

The Lord bless you, and keep you. The Lord cause his face to shine upon you, and be gracious towards you. The Lord turn his face towards you, and grant you peace.

In the long run, we’re all dead. So in the short run, let’s learn how to love.

 

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those mentioned in the story.

Do Not Worry

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind.

The kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday

When the columnist Mary Schmich wrote these words in the Chicago Tribune in 1997 they, along with the rest of the column Wear Sunscreen became a viral sensation. They so struck a chord that when Baz Luhrmann turned them into an ambient dance track, it became a number 1 hit in several countries.

I was partly responsible for the success of this single (well, I bought the CD along with thousands of others). There are some great one-liners in there: Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone; The older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young; Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85; and of course, wear sunscreen. But the stanza above has always particularly struck me.

I was recently blindsided in Guatemala when I met José*. I’d gone with my colleagues from the Bible Society to a government-run shelter for children just outside of Guatemala City. All of the 800 boys and girls in the shelter were in some way or another wards of the State. Some were orphans, some had special educational needs, and some had been rescued from gangs – nine year-olds who had been given a gun and told to kill. These children rarely if ever leave the shelter, both for their own safety and for the safety of others.

During my visit I had the privilege to speak to fifty of the boys as part of a gathering organised by the Bible Society volunteers. What do you say in such a situation? I’ve rarely felt so inadequate. As I stumbled through a short talk about David the Shepherd boy, I was increasingly aware of the privileges of my childhood and that of my own children.

After I’d finished a young man, José, asked to speak with me privately. As we withdrew to a corner I asked, via translation, what was on his mind. Immediately his face, which had been a hard and expressionless mask, crumpled as the tears rolled down. Between sobs, José told us that when he was a young boy, he was abandoned by his parents and taken in by his aunt. Not long afterwards, his aunt also abandoned him and he became a ward of the State, entering the government shelter aged 11. In the intervening years he has never been visited by a family member. Not once. This is the same experience as eighty percent of the children in the shelter. Today, aged 17, approaching his birthday and official adulthood, he is facing up to the prospect of having to leave the shelter and create a life for himself beyond the familiar walls. And he was terrified. He was preparing to leave the only home he’d ever known, for a world that had, in the experience of his short life, totally rejected him.

I can’t even begin to imagine the fear, the isolation. And the reality was, as I stood with José in the concrete yard of an institution full of forgotten children, that Schmich’s words on their own, however valiant in sentiment and however beautifully-crafted, had a hollow ring to them.

But there’s another famous passage that exhorts us not to worry. In the Gospels, Matthew records Jesus saying:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6

These words took on a new meaning for me that day. And how, might you ask, do they differ from Schmich’s poignant soliloquy? Because we are in the hands of God himself. Not a distant, impersonal God, sitting on a cloud, itching to punish us. But a God who broke into our world as a helpless baby, born with the hint of human disgrace hanging over his head; the child of refugees, hunted by the authorities, raised in poverty and persecuted for bringing a message of mercy and love.

Guatemala Volcano Antigua

In the light of Jesus’ own story, every one of those children in that shelter can afford to hope. All of them can have a bright future. And if the Bible story and its message of restoration seems distant to them, all the children have to do is look at the lead Bible Society volunteer, Michael*: his tattoo-sleeves, his jail-time for gang membership, and the humility and fatherly love that he brings to them every week in a place that so few will visit.

I and the Bible Society volunteers were able to remind José of some of this. Where my words failed me, God’s words were enough. As we wept together, I was able to remind José of God’s promise to Jeremiah, that “before I formed you in the womb I knew you“, of the words of the Psalmist that he was “fearfully, and wonderfully made”. And I was able to share those other words God gave to Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 

 

*I’ve changed names for the sake of the safety and dignity of the people concerned.

Northern Light?

Watching from the side-lines of the Labour leadership contest it seems that, so far, very few big ideas have been declared by our four candidates. Of course, the tabloid caricatures have been cast: from so-called Looney Left to so-called Blairite Revisionist. Meanwhile we wait for something to happen.

But the reality is that so much is up for grabs. Will we move back to the Centre? Will we return to the comfort of Blairism or continue the more radical critique of Miliband and beyond? How will we reconnect with the electorate of Middle England whom it seems we failed to persuade in the General Election? How on earth will we come back from the debacle of the Scottish result soon enough to perform well in next year’s Holyrood election? The political landscape has changed. And we somehow have to chart a course through it over the next five years.

Perhaps the first step in determining our direction of travel is to work out where we’re starting from. One of the most instructive articles prior to the election was by Paul Mason. He argued that the country is now dominated by three groups; ‘Scandi-Scotland’, the asset-rich south east and post-industrial Britain. He argued that the Scots, south-eastern England and the post-industrial North and Wales are now living out conflicting narratives. The danger for the Labour Party is that while Blairism recognised this trend and adapted to it, winning seats in the south, we were wrong to assume that post-industrial Britain and Scotland would come along for the ride.

Mason also points out that the SNP and the Tories have captured the zeitgeist of their heartlands well. Labour has not, ceding votes to Ukip, the SNP and the Tories. The upshot is the loss of Scotland to the SNP, the loss of the South East to the supposedly more aspiration-friendly Tories, and the huge increase in the Ukip vote in the North. If Ukip were as good at politics as the SNP would Labour have lost more seats in the North? Almost certainly. Labour needs to ensure that we don’t miss the writing on the wall: as well as developing a narrative that wins back Blair-era southern voters and reclaiming our place in Scotland, we need to talk about The North.

The long-term status of the North as a Labour heartland cannot be taken for granted. The tribal loyalties and family connections which used to define our presence in the North are waning. It’s arguable that, like the industry which once defined it, Labour’s roots in these communities have loosened. The roots are not gone. But we cannot afford to go any further without tending to them.

True, all is not lost. As accurate as that Maggie Simpson electoral map was, there remains strong support for Labour in the North East, and in urban centres like Sheffield, Liverpool and Manchester. Indeed, in areas like Wearside – first to declare on polling day – incumbents Julie Elliot, Sharon Hodgson and Bridgette Phillipson all increased their majorities considerably. Labour is still the party which can best represent the North. But to do that we will need to both up our game and lobby for changes that will allow the North to flourish again.

Sandwiched between the resurgent nationalisms of Scotland and Wales, pressured by protest votes, underwhelmed by deepening apathy and left behind by the relative affluence of the South East, the North has been taken for granted; not just by Labour but by the country as a whole.

That we have a dysfunctional economy, far too dependent upon London and the South East, is obvious. This imbalance is evidenced in the inequality that we find all over: from the East End of Glasgow to the docks of Sunderland, from the valleys of North Wales and, ironically, to the outskirts of London itself. Our politics also remains heavily-weighted to London with Westminster, and to some degree the London Assembly and the Boris Effect, creating a self-fulfilling gravitational pull for investment. This fact was only partially-acknowledged during the election campaign, even although it affects the whole country.

But crucially, whilst Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have Parliaments and Assemblies to represent their voice and some of the powers needed to stimulate their economies, the North has been left with only local, and not regional, government.

The North has a problem. It has been taken for granted and ignored. But even now the Labour Party remains the best hope for a transformed, empowered and dynamic North. So what should we do?

In Glasgow, to be ‘Clyde-built’ was once a badge of communal pride, something that helped shape the identity of an entire city: it’s now a nostalgic reference to the industrial heritage of ship-building. At one time, the relationship in parts of the country between local education, employers and the wider community was so inter-related as to be inseparable. Even football clubs were part of this eco-system, with teams like The Blades, the Potters, the Cobblers or the Brewers named after the local industries. This socio-economic model is no more. All we have left are traces and disconnected parts. And it’s not just the loss of jobs and consequent wealth of previous generations which leaves a hole, but the dilution of the very sense of identity which many communities found at least in part from the ‘Made in’ stamp.

So what’s the lesson here? Firstly, communal identity can be an important factor in socio-economic success. The community that works together, stays together, it seems, even after most of the work has gone. Secondly, if we are to create the modern equivalent to the old communities centred around local industries and stimulate integrated local economies, focussed on creativity, hard work and shared identity, then more power needs to be held more locally. This is the opposite of the individualistic approach of neo-liberal economics in which each ‘producer’ is a singular widget in a vast economic machine. It’s an alternative to the creeping authoritarianism of the SNP in Scotland or the Conservatives in England.

But we need to go above the level of the immediate town and the Local Authority. It’s the impact of that core Labour ideal – solidarity – which will help the North as a whole find its voice, not just in the UK, but throughout the world.

Politically this puts Labour in a complicated situation. We began devolution but we didn’t see it through, side-tracked by wars and declining radicalism after years in power. The result is a half baked devolution which is itself the cause of some of the tension felt in Wales and the North. Why shouldn’t Wales have the same powers as Scotland, ask Plaid Cymru? Why should the North be ignored or need to resort to ‘take us with you Scotland’ pleas after a Tory victory? George Osborne’s ‘northern powerhouse’ whether real or imagined is clearly intended to begin the decontamination of the Tory brand in the North and to centralise power in the hands of a sprinkling of city Mayors. To oppose it looks like meanness, yet if Labour is to reclaim the strong support of the North we will need to be much bolder than Osborne.

It is too soon to be setting policy for 2020. We have a leader and deputy leader to elect first and a defeat to digest. At the same time we must not cede the North to the Tories or to UKIP. For that to happen we must develop a strong narrative that offers hope to communities too often left behind; the non-voters, UKIP voters and those in Pudsey, Colne Valley, and Keighley that don’t like what Labour had to offer this time round. The offer must give hope to communities which have had little since before Thatcherism, communities New Labour too passed by.

And it has to be about more than devolution; it has to involve power and money. Bad decisions made locally are just as bad as bad decisions made far away. Labour needs to be content with the direction set by the North being different from that of London, the South, Wales or Scotland. This will require ambitious policy and a clear settlement for the other parts of the UK. The risks are real, the rewards – not least for the people of Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds and Grimsby – are huge.

We end with some tentative suggestions. If power and money are needed in addition to deliberation, any devolution must involve tax raising powers, a demarcated area that is ‘the North’, and the ability to make choices which are different from those of surrounding regions.

We believe that this would be best realised by the creation of a ‘Mayor of the North’, a First Minister of Northern England. This role would have powers and budget akin to the Mayor of London, would be directly-elected every five years in line with Parliamentary Elections, and would be scrutinised by a Northern Assembly comprised by 100 Councillors from the Local Authorities of the North. This new tier of ‘super-Councillors’ would be paid a full-time wage and would split their time between their Local Authority responsibilities and the Northern Assembly.

Assembly Members would be elected by their peers in the Local Authority which would form an Electoral College, itself reflective of the popular vote in each Local Authority election. The Assembly (which would be at least as powerful as the London Assembly), and the Northern First Minister would operate a significant budget garnered from both Central Government and a proportion of Local Government Council Tax receipts and Business Rates. These funds would be used across the range of powers currently devolved to Local Government. But, significantly, the budget could also be allocated to one-off infrastructure or other flagship projects.

There are of course questions to be answered: How would such an Assembly and First Minister work in partnership with London, Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh? Where in the North would they be based? What would their exact powers be? How would the relative responsibilities of the Assembly and the councils of the North be integrated? Should this form part of a wider new constitutional settlement that finishes the incomplete devolution of New Labour and that benefits other regions?

These questions cannot be answered definitively without some degree of trial and error. But this is nothing to be scared of. These proposals are less dramatic than the waves of devolution the Celtic nations have experienced since 1999, continuing up to this day. And those waves are only moving in one direction.

Our challenge is to continue to outwork our mandate as the unity party; the party which transcends nationalism, authoritarianism, narrow sectionalism and self-interest, and which instead cultivates flourishing, confident communities that are rooted in social justice. To achieve that we have to do something that political parties don’t like to do with power: we have to give it away.

Campaigning 101

It’s only a few days since the debacle for Labour that was the 2015 General Election Result. The Tories have shuffled their cabinet, and we in Labour are currently shuffling our feet, thinking what to do next. So, whilst the posturing for the leadership contest gets underway and the weeping and gnashing of teeth slowly abates, I feel drawn to dwell on the lighter side of the campaigning of the last few months.

This was my first, end to end, General Election campaign and I’ve learned a lot. Here are the top lessons –

    • Comfortable footwear should not be under-estimated. This campaign saw me destroy three pairs of shoes. When you’re walking up to 15 miles a day, you want to be comfortable. Neon is optional though.

Campaigning Feet

  • The designers of most letterboxes are sadists. My knuckles are evidence that ACME Cheese Graters Ltd also has a nice side line in letterbox design.
  • Dogs can be more cunning than you expect. It’s not the big ones or the loud ones that you have to watch out for; it’s the wee ones that wait silently under the letterbox that will give you a heart attack.
  • Take necessary precautions against chafing. Enough said.
  • The designers of most letterboxes are sadists. Who ever thought it was a good idea to put a letterbox at the bottom of a door?
  • Having a door shut in your face is a political rite of passage. A bit like childhood picnics in Largs, it’s not nice, but it’s characterforming.
  • Watch out for the SHOUTY MAN. You may not know it, but somewhere, even now, a SHOUTY MAN is poised in a hallway, just waiting for you to knock his door whilst wearing the wrong badge.
  • Some shortcuts are not all they promise to be. That route to the next door that avoids you having to go back up the path and down the next path? It’s a shrubbery. Just don’t.
  • Fuel up on polling day. Even if you’re campaigning in the seat that prides itself on declaring first (Sunderland), 7am to 1am is still a long time to stay alert. Bananas and French Fancies are essential.
  • We’re in a Party Rosette Arms Race. Did you see the size of some of those UKIP ones?
  • The Voter ID Board is like the Ring of Sauron. One ring to rule them all…The power of the board can do funny things to some people (not just Hobbitses).
  • The designers of most letterboxes are sadists. What are those brushes in the middle for? No-one wants to fight a hedgehog just to deliver a Sorry You Were Out card. Posties, I salute you.

But the greatest lesson of all? It’s that fighting for your ideals, taking them out onto the street, to the doors of strangers, and doing your bit to work for a better society is one of the most rewarding things you can do.