Leafy suburbia didn’t prepare me for London’s high rise living. I visited tower blocks similar to Grenfell Tower when working, nearly fifty years ago, at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. A few years previously I’d been on a special Social Studies course for sixth formers. One assignment was to plan an inner city housing development. High rise towers dominated our thinking. Our tutor pointed out the pros and cons of such a scenario and our cocksure ideas were challenged. But by the late 1960s and early 1970s the towers had become realities – though not at the whim of naïve sixth formers.

Poverty was rife and it was a battle to get local councils to understand the plight of many of our patients, let alone take action to alleviate people’s challenging circumstances. Has nothing changed in half a century? Are there still ‘lessons to be learnt’ as politicians like to put it? Challenge the powers-that-be to get out into the real world and engage with ordinary people!

The gap between rich and poor is increasing. Should we bring back Robin Hood who, according to legend, robbed the rich to feed the poor?  In recent weeks, the Queen, for all her wealth, has got alongside those who’ve lost everything. Her compassion, like that of many local people, demonstrates the teaching of Jesus who said that he’d come to bring good news to the poor and to set free the oppressed. How does that work today? It’s a servant attitude. Jesus urged his followers to show compassion (literally, ‘to suffer with,’) through acts of kindness; by so doing it’s as if we do it for him, the supreme example of servant-hood. Civil service.


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