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Rabbi Abraham Heschel is quoted as having said, ‘words create worlds’. This is literally the case at the beginning of Genesis, where God speaks and creation occurs, but Heschel recognises that this same act of creation is happening around us all of the time. Today, on World Poetry Day, we are giving thanks for the power that words have to create the potential for All We Can’s vision to become a reality, as people’s potential is being fulfilled in the communities we are working with.
All We Can’s ‘partnership agreements’ with our partners around the world are written in words, the church and personal resources we put together are mainly words, the live broadcasts and video stories we share on social media are full of words, the prayers you pray, the emails of support you send, the donation forms you fill in have lots of words in them. And together, by the grace of God, those words are creating new worlds for people.
So, today, we celebrate the power of a particular word – which might not even be a word, technically – that summarises the way All We Can is seeking to do development: alongside people, in partnership with people, with people.
Withness is not a word, not really,
And yet it ever-so-nearly does sum up
Of following Jesus,
The one who sees us, who frees us,
And who is right here with us.
O come, o come Immanuel, we sing
But the thing is, he’s already here,
O so near, whispering ‘do not fear’.
Sometimes, you just have to sit with the nearness,
Enjoying the nearness of feeling the love.
But it’s kind of perverse to just sit in neutral,
Or put yourself in reverse,
When others have got it much worse.
So, although withness is not a word, not properly,
It’s an invitation to do something about poverty
And injustice, to step up and step out,
Into a new way of being,
A new way of seeing,
Where we are kind of guaranteeing
That we want to get past all this colonialism,
All this structural racism,
All this charity tourism,
Where we have the answers and the big chequebooks.
Withness says no,
Go slow, but together,
Whether it’s hard or it’s easy,
Partnership is what matters.
So, when it seems like the world is in tatters,
And voices of division get louder and louder,
The borders and boundaries stand prouder and prouder,
When the narrative is turning even more hateful,
We’ll still be here, and we’ll still be grateful
That withness is a word,
Yes really: the kind of word that can – ideally –
Help us to see more clearly
That when we love each other sincerely,
Withness can change us,
And change ‘I’ and ‘them’ and ‘over there’
To us, and us, and here, right here.
This year, to celebrate World Poetry Day, we are challenging our supporters to write and submit their own poetry to our Easter Poem Competition. We will be sharing our favourite poems on our website and social media channels on Easter Sunday.
To enter the competition, fill out the form below:
Please note – we will only email you with regards to the Easter Poem Competition, and by sharing your email in the form above you will not be added to any mailing lists.
Tim works at All We Can as Churches and Volunteers Manager and is based in Yorkshire. In this role, he leads the Churches team, speaks at events and leads worship, helping to raise awareness and support for All We Can's inspiring work. Tim is a lifelong Methodist and spent his younger years in the south Caribbean as part of a family of mission partners.