Earlier this week I was listening to one of my favourite jazz cd’s.
The instruments being played were piano, guitar, double bass and drums.
At the end of the cd was an extra track not on the original recording.
It was the band rehearsing one of the songs but without the bass player,
and what a difference it made, something vital was missing.
Yet if you listen to the song earlier on the cd
you are well aware of the guitar player, the pianist; and the drummer certainly!
But you are hardly aware that double bass is contributing anything.
It is only when you hear the song without the bass
that you realise how essential it is to the whole piece of music.
It is a fact of life that some things are only noticed when they are no longer there.
It is also true that some people who play important roles in our daily lives,
are hardly noticed until they are not around.
It is only then we realise their value and worth.
I remember when I first left home in my little Yorkshire village,
and came to college in London at the age of 19.
After a few weeks I began to wonder why my clothes were beginning to smell,
and how come they were spread around all over the floor.
It took a while before it dawned on me that my mum used to sort all that out.
It is amazing the things that you take for granted until it is no longer there.
When a college cleaner found me staring at the washing machine
with clothes in one hand and soap powder in another
wondering what the eck you did next!
She took pity on me and spent time showing me what to do.
I was very grateful to her, I even bought her some chocolates to say thank you.
It was only then that it occurred to me to say thanks to my mum
who had done the job for me for 19 years while I just took it all for granted.
It is easy to take family, friends, and those closest to us for granted.
It is easy to assume that they know we are grateful for their presence in our lives,
and that it just goes without saying.
But, as we all know, sometimes it is nice to hear it said.
It is nice to surprised by an unexpected gift that says thanks for being you;
that says thanks for all you do.
I often wonder what my mum would have thought to the lavish thanks
I gave to the cleaner who showed me how to use a washing machine;
after she had washed and ironed my clothes for 19 years without a word of thanks!
And it is not just our family we take for granted,
but people who serve us in the community.
Our streets don’t just sweep themselves;
our bins are not emptied by the refuge fairy;
our post does not magic its way onto our doormat;
our buses don’t drive on auto.
I always feel sorry for those who work at supermarket checkouts,
who are often treated like they do not exist.
I was in Tesco’s recently
and someone in front of me took their basket to the checkout,
they were talking on their mobile phone the whole time they were being served,
they never once acknowledged the existence of the person serving them,
and did not even break their conversation to say thank you at the end.
It is easy to criticise others but I wonder how often I also fail to appreciate
the service that I am given by another person?
How often do I take for granted the contribution
that so many people make to my life and to the community I live in?
This week I want to encourage you to take some time to be aware
of the many people who quietly do things that make your life easier and richer.
Maybe take a moment to thank someone for what they do,
not just in our own household or inner circle,
but also to someone who serves us in some way.
I remember once some years ago
writing an article in the magazine about our local road sweepers.
One of our congregation at the time
took it upon herself to give a copy to one of the Grove Park sweepers.
I found out later that the article was pinned up in the sheds where they begin each day.
To know they are valued was important to them.
Maybe we can say or do something
that lets people know their work, their contribution, is noticed and appreciated;
the way Jesus did to the unnoticed people that crossed his path.
If we lived as if it was Jesus who cleaned our streets, emptied our bins,
served us in shops, delivered our mail, or dealt with our enquiries –
I believe the Kingdom of God would seem very close indeed.