Since we last met I’ve taken up a struggle for justice…Sort of…Well ok, it’s not quite in the same category as A.B.C. Welby vs Wonga, but you know, a harshly issued parking ticket is pretty annoying!
It all started with my decision to park in the train station car park one morning rather than at the top of a steep hill ten minutes walk away as I normally do. The simple reason for this deviation in routine was that I was meeting my wife in London for dinner that night and I figured it would be nice not to have to trudge up that really steep hill at 11pm when we were tired…
I had previously registered with the car park people and so they have my car and bank card details on file which means that all I need to do is text them a code and their system recognises that I’ve paid for the day. Easy, right?
So that’s what I do and as I walk along the station platform as the train is arriving I feel my phone vibrate with what I thought was the ‘confirmation text’. I get on the train and I’m on my merry way. That’s at 7.30am.
At about 10am I had cause to look at my phone and I noticed that the ‘confirmation text’ was in fact the exact opposite – ‘your payment has not been successful’…
I text again… ‘Your payment has not been successful’.
I call the automated payment line, navigate the endless options and enter a million digits “followed by the hash key”… ‘Your payment has not been successful’!
It’s now 10.12am and I’m getting a little frustrated. I ring them again and finally – it works. Relieved, I carried on with my day. Went out after work, met my wife and had a lovely evening. We got the late train home grateful for parking in the car park and then I saw it.
That yellow plastic wallet stuck to the window. Ouch.
I have written them a letter to explain that although according to the bare facts as they were aware of them at the time, namely that when at 10.08am, the warden saw my car, I had not technically paid, they were well within their rights to issue the ticket, if they take the time to listen to me – really listen – with understanding, humanity, compassion and an attitude of mercy rather than making money, I think they might just come round – and that will make me really happy. Not just because I’ll save a lump of cash, but actually there is something heart-warming about people connecting and seeing past money, facts and mechanistic regulations.
Because when compassion and kindness wins it changes people.
Justice is a funny thing when you encounter it. I know parking tickets are part of life’s rich tapestry and we’ve been talking about much bigger things but at its centre justice is about more than getting the ‘right result’ – it’s about connecting real people with those things that define the very heart of God.
And that’s what makes justice so important, not just to those who are being treated unfairly and see an end to that, but it changes the person who is ‘doing’ justice too.
At the start of Anglican wedding services you normally hear the vicar belt out a quote from 1 John 4 (v16b) which I absolutely love – “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” If we choose a life of compassion, kindness, understanding, listening and then acting from there we will live in love and that, as John describes, is a great place to be.
I said in our very first conversation in this series that when we serve the marginalised and actively love those in need we’ll find ourselves in the presence of Jesus, and whilst I’m not the greatest person at staying there, I love it when I am because in that place I find that I am restored and healed every bit as much as anyone else – and that is very Good News.