Alright, “changed my life” is probably a bit dramatic. But it was really good.
I was thinking about how we’d feel about the Olympics if they were happening here this weekend. Probably not far off how lots of people were feeling the week before London 2012 – namely, gloomy.
It rained for two months before the Olympics. Remember the Queen and Prince Phillip almost dying on that flotilla in torrential rain? It rained and rained and rained. And people were gloomy.
I stood in front of my church and took a very unscientific poll about people’s general feeling about the upcoming Olympics. And it was, that’s right, gloomy.
So, why did London 2012 change my life? Because there were a few of us who refused to be gloomy. Some of us at church decided that the Olympics was going to be brilliant and that we as a church community needed to take the opportunity and run with it. So we planned – we joined with More than Gold and ended up with a bunch of brilliant Texans coming over to help us out, and we corralled our fabulous young people to do a week of mission out of the church and in the town.
And of course, we all know how 2012 went. As I sat in a park to watch the opening ceremony at a joint event put on by local churches, with my young people, and my new friends from Texas (although I think most of them were manning the bungey run or the barbecue), and I watched Danny Boyle’s phenomenal story of Britain broadcast to the world, I got chills. I knew we were in for a few spectacular Olympic and Paralympic weeks.
And as we gathered on super Saturday in the church hall for our final mission-week dinner, screaming on Mo and Jess like they were our besties (they are all our besties, right?), it happened again: chills.
And frankly, if we thought 2012 was gloomy, let’s not talk about 2016. It’s been pretty gloomy for the last six weeks or so (regardless of political opinion, I’m yet to meet someone who thinks we’ve nailed life as a nation lately).
As all these memories have come back to me over the last few weeks, I’ve been struck by the difference between then and now: then we were gloomy but the world was lit up byan incredible Olympic torch (and I suggest you re-visit the lighting of that torch – the batons handed from older to young of our national sporting identity). Now, we’re just gloomy.
I think that’s why it changed my life: because when there was gloom, I found community, connections and contact.
So in this gloomy summer of 2016, I am reflecting on my 2012 lessons: I’m looking at my community – my friends, my family, my workplace, my church – and I’m looking for my connections – fellow commuters, neighbours, my local MP – and I’m finding my points of contact – what do you and I share?
We are not made for isolation. Make your neighbour a cake and hope they eat gluten. Make an appointment to meet your MP, just to say hello (whether you voted for them or not). Smile at the person whose armpit you’re pressed against on the train (try not to be flirtatious, that’s not necessarily what this is about). Make the guy from the finance team who you just don’t get a cup of tea. We need each other, and frankly, it’s what Jesus would do. But that cup of tea would be the BEST EVER.
P.S. Other things I loved:
I went to the Paralympics to watch some running and the British guy who was fourth as he rounded the last bend got a bronze medal after 80,000 people pushed him over the line just by the sheer power of noise. That’s what he said.
I suggest you re-visit the lighting of the torch – as a youth worker, the power of watching older sports people hand the torch on to younger people with a hug and a word of encouragement will stay with me forever.
I’ve lived in south-east London all my life with various connections to the area of the Olympic park. The Olympics made me proud to be so close to such a brilliant and diverse community as the one found in east London. And also, I’m excited about West Ham’s new home…
This post is part of our week-long series on sport, inspired by our recent event, Sport: What’s the point?