I was once waiting for a train at Liverpool Street Station in London. It is a huge station with a gallery running around the main concourse.
I was having a coffee when suddenly music started, and a random man started dancing in the middle of the concourse. Gradually, but quickly, other people started joining in – school children, business people in suits, nurses, station employees, a policeman even. It all seemed very well practised but then they started pulling all of us in, shouting the moves to us. We picked it up fast and before long the whole concourse was packed with people dancing, smiling, and laughing. It was brilliant. Then equally suddenly the music stopped, everyone melted away and life went on as normal. Now, it turned out it was a Flash Mob (is that the right phrase?), an advert for T-Mobile phones with the tagline “Life’s for Sharing”. You can still see it online if you want (look it up under T-Mobile Dance January 16th, 2009). I am somewhere in there. It was uplifting and I felt good for a week. There is nothing like dancing, like strangers coming together, looking each other in the eye and laughing. Wonderful! I have often thought about that experience. I was in the right place at the right time. The world would be a better place if we danced more together, actually and metaphorically, and certainly, if we looked strangers in the eye and smiled. Life surely is for sharing.
On my way back from the amazing MtS Adventure Race Japan (which I reflected on in my last blog), I spent a few days in the Philippines with our Family Support Network team. It was an absolute pleasure to see the way in which that work has developed since I was last there. The Mission’s charitable aims commit us to the support of seafarers AND their families. It has been great to see the recent redevelopment of our work in that latter area. Our family support work – in India, Myanmar, and the Philippines – enables a joined-up approach. If they come across seafarers deeply worried about their families, our chaplaincy teams in ports can reach out directly to the Family Support Networks who can offer a whole range of support. In the case of the Philippines, and in close liaison with the Iglesia Filipina Independiente churches, we can respond to issues right across the country – whether they be pastoral, legal, financial, or medical. In addition, there has been emergency support to families throughout the pandemic, as well as educational initiatives supporting children and families. As ever in the Philippines, we were welcomed – as in Liverpool Street Station – with dancing, and there are pictures testifying to my own efforts! What followed was a wonderful example of “Life’s for Sharing” as a whole range of women, all spouses of seafarers, shared their experiences. These included the challenges of long absence, including in terms of childcare, and bereavement following disaster. It was clear how much these wonderful individuals had been helped by sharing within a supportive community. They had drawn strength and comfort.
It is often said that a trouble shared is a trouble halved. It is so true. In all its work, the Mission carries forward that mantra that Life is indeed for Sharing and we seek to provide every opportunity for that to happen. And what about the dancing? There used to be a great deal of dancing in our Centres – some even had (and still have) specially sprung dance floors. Seafarers would mix with the local community on such evenings. Some found their life partners on such occasions. But changing times put paid to that – including quick turnaround times and smaller crews. I have, however, seen one Mission dance in action and can still see the joy on the faces of those seafarers. Could we bring back more of it? But whatever … Life is for Sharing.
One related topic I have been asked to mention is London International Shipping Week (LISW). The maritime industry is one that definitely believes that Life’s for Sharing. The Mission often enjoys participating in some of the industry’s great get-togethers, most recently at the huge Nor-Shipping event in Oslo where we launched our exciting new welfare app for seafarers – Happy at Sea. Coming up in September, though, is very close to home for us – and always superb. LISW brings together key maritime players from all over the world and is always a special occasion.
Thanks to all our supporters for “dancing” with us, for looking us and those we serve in the eye with a smile – and for sustaining how you share with us in good times and bad.