This image is the first in the book ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’ by Charlie Mackesy. This image is the final one in my series of five posts of parting gifts. Notes to myself about what I’ve learnt being a mental health chaplain, and indeed a fellow human.
When I first saw this sketch it made me weep. I’d like to tell you this is not because I am big softy – though with certain things, perhaps I am. I glanced at it and it went straight to my heart, imprinted forever, because of the sheer simplicity of it.
We don’t know who arrived first – perhaps the boy was sitting there on the grass and the mole poked its head up. Or perhaps the boy spied something curious in the grass and sat down next to it to get a better look. This image is meaningful to me because it says what chaplaincy is about. We are not likely to have imagined this moment in our lives, finding ourselves so sick, or depressed, or lonely, or injured. These things tend to arrive unanticipated and unwelcomed. So all of a sudden, more starkly than we may have realised it before, our humanity is absolutely paramount. We notice the tiniest kindness and squeeze all we can from it, live off that kindness for as long as possible. In mental health especially there is much less pretence or masks being worn. And chaplains find all that, see all that, come along side all that, and say ‘hello’. We ask to sit down in the grass and take a look at what is going on. My humanity meets your humanity. That ‘hello’ absolutely validates the importance of who is there and of this particular moment. So I can’t possibly go all armoured up, they would see right through me. This picture speaks of vulnerability and simplicity in the meeting one with another, not knowing where this ‘hello’ will take us, if anywhere. So again and again we turn up, we risk ambivalence and rejection, we are often surprised by how are made welcome as a guest in anothers’ life, and we always, always, start with ‘hello’.