Like many organisations across the world, we have identity badges at the Institute of Educational Development and are expected to wear them. Visitors are given visitor badges. So, if I see anybody without a badge whom I don't recognise, it's my job - and that of everybody else in the Institute - to offer help in order to establish who they are and what they're doing there.
Of course, what sounds like a straightforward system isn't. Our security guards wear uniforms but don't seem to have badges, and our cleaners don't seem to have them. I have toyed with the idea of getting somebody I know, either from church or the local fruit stand to pose as a student who has forgotten his/her badge and see what happens.
Anyway, on Thursday I had reason to speak to the student group at 0745 - still can't get over how wonderful it is to be able to do this - and decided to have a 'badge day'. This involves checking to see if people are wearing their identity badges and, if so, to give them a 'smiley face' sticker. No badge, no sticker. This applies to everybody I meet - students, the director, director's husband, faculty (ie. academic staff), admin, technical, financial, housekeeping - everybody.
It's curious how much people seem to like being given these stickers. I suppose part of what's going on here is an implicit recognition that, even though we don't work directly with children, I am modelling what one might do if we were. One colleague insisted on having a green sticker, corresponding to the convention in his son's school that a red is associated with being naughty. Conversely, I got some borderline angry reactions from people not given a sticker when seeing other people with them - 'You didn't say you were going to do this! This is bad assessment!' - they may have been joking but I'm not entirely convinced! So the 'badge day' was extended to the following day for people who had left their badges at home and determined to get a sticker.
All this for stickers which costs a small fraction of a penny each. Of course, the issue here is not the sticker, but recognition, community, joining in, fun - even if we often forget to wear our badges we understand the reasons for the rule. One of the issues I've been thinking about recently is corporal punishment (happy to explain why in private communication), I offer this as an example of a positive way of going about things, having fun but making a serious point at the same time.
Time for a picture, I think - this is a 'junk' from Zanzibar:
One of the distinctive features of Stone Town in Zanzibar is the doors, with multiple influences - Arab, Indian and others. Here's one such:
Off to Kenya this coming week, I'll tell you about the trip one it's happened, I am intending to take a camera with me!
Pleased to say that all non-SPAM comments on last week's entry picked up on the fact that I'd spoken at a Christian Fellowship meeting about peace, asking for further details on what I had said. OK, 'all' comments is actually 1, that one coming from my father (thank you, Dad, for your continuing support!) I had meant to bring the notes I used home, but forgot, but would like to tell you how I finished.
One of my favourite passages in the Bible is Luke 2:22-35. As a very young child, Jesus is taken to the temple to be met by Simeon. God has previously promised Simeon that before he died he would see the promised Messiah. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Simeon recognises this to be Jesus, and then prays the most beautiful prayer, including, '..you may now dismiss your servant in peace'.
There's a number of reasons I like this passage. I find the characters who appear only very briefly in the Bible fascinating - another example is Ananias in Acts 9, sent to help Paul after his conversion on the Damascus road. Luke 2 offers a great case study in peace - in the fulfilment of God's promise to Simeon, he has harmony in his relationships with his Creator and with those around him, and is now able to go to his grave at peace with himself, knowing that he has done what God sent him to do. Noticeable also later in the passage that Simeon prophesies that Jesus 'is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel', and that Mary also has difficult times ahead - 'a sword will pierce your own soul too.' Side by side with peace often in the Bible is a background of persecution and suffering - there is no promise of an easy life as Christians, but we can know peace before God even when things around us are difficult.
Everything we know about Simeon is in these few verses in Luke's gospel. We don't know that happened to him after he met Jesus, but it seems to me reasonable to suppose that he passed away shortly afterwards. Indeed, maybe that very day he went to bed never to wake up in this world, to wake up in Glory and discover, doubtless with some considerable amazement, that his prayer was recorded, with millions - billions - remembering his faithfulness before God.
Another reason I like this passage so much is that it forms part of the Anglican Evensong service. Under its Latin title of 'Nunc Dimittis' it is said or sung after the New Testament reading on a daily and weekly basis in Cathedrals and churches across the world:
Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace
According to Thy Word.
For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation
Which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people.
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles
And to be the glory of Thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son
And to the Holy Ghost
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
World without end, Amen.