Author: Stephen Hammersley
How often do you hear of a lifesaving idea that will save someone’s life that you can do, and one that most people in the country can do.
That was the startling thought that hit me when I first heard of “Love my Neighbour”, surely me reaching out to a neighbour won’t save a life – or will it?
Indulge me in a thought experiment that tells more – you can save a life and we, together, can save lots of lives.
This winter there will be around 30,000 excess winter deaths according to government statistics. These are predominantly older people who get ill and cold but who don’t seek help soon enough because they are isolated and lonely particularly when it’s dark and cold outside.
Age UK estimate that 1.4 million people in the UK are often lonely.
How do we connect with 1.4m people whose wellbeing is suffering because the relationships they have do not match up to those they would like to have and who are at risk of being one of the 30,000?
Well, if every listener to BBC Radio 2’s Sunday programme at or around 8 am visited just one neighbour then we would have just enough visits, and by 9am the number of listeners mean we would have over a million too many visits.
If every adult who attends church on a Sunday morning, visited just one neighbour on Sunday afternoon then we would also have 1 million too many visits.And if everyone who went to a Premier league match this weekend, buoyed with enthusiasm visited two neighbours in the week that would reach just the right number people.
So we could save this lives this winter, and all we need is the encouragement to reach out to someone living near us. That is where “Love My Neighbour” kicks in, a simple but potentially life-giving campaign to remind and encourage us all to connect with our neighbours. It’s good for everyone, but our prayer is that this would be especially good for older people this winter.
The Faith in Later Life website contains some simple tools and ideas that help people and churches reach out and make a start by showing that housebound people are valued: individuals with unique strengths and interests as well as challenges; people whose voice matters and should be listened to; but whose confidence and self esteem might be low; and who might need a little help to help themselves. And amongst these people will be some at real risk this winter. For people who want to help more people more deeply we signpost other organisations that provide training and can help with more extensive schemes.
The Beatles pleaded “love love me do…someone to love, somebody new, someone to love, someone like you” As for me, I’m off to visit my 96-year-old neighbour armed with a fresh scone and ready to chat about the King’s birthday.
Stephen Hammersley CBE
CEO Pilgrims Friend Society