In recognition of the Patronal celebrations this week, I was asked to reflect on what the story of St Martin means to me and the work of The Connection. It made me think about the work we do with the ‘beggars’ of the 21st Century.
I am drawn to the story because St Martin shows the responsibility we have to care for each other. However, whilst his gesture appears on the surface to be a straightforward, practical act with an immediate benefit, it also presented me with a challenge. One could be forgiven for considering the use of his cloak to be rather short term and inadequate.
The Connection is seeing increasing numbers of people with highly complex needs. The naked beggar in the story represents many difficult, challenging situations. It is easy to see the cloak representing the services at The Connection that help people to move towards a better life.
However, to address both the presenting and underlying problems faced by the beggar requires very significant personal sacrifice, not a token gesture. St Martin didn’t give up a small part of his cloak; he shared equally.
If overcoming such deep social injustice as we witness every day at The Connection was a simple as providing practical support in the way the story might at first indicate, we’d have clothed, housed, healed and trained all the naked beggars across Europe by now.
How much of my cloak am I, or you prepared to give? How much personal inconvenience and challenge would you tolerate when presented with the dilemmas and conundrums the naked beggar might bring? The story opens out the question of the individual cost we might be prepared bear to achieve a more socially just, equal world.