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Don’t follow Dionne Warwick’s advice – but do so safely

I’d hesitate to declare that this column has been syndicated but it’s now going to be part of our weekly local church communication. So for new readers, this blog aims to alert churches, and local safeguarding officers in particular, to safeguarding news and developments, as well as commenting on national stories. Safeguarding is a serious subject, but the odd bit of humour is often injected alongside advice and guidance. It’s not meant to scare but to support and make the safeguarding task a little easier.

Having just returned from my permitted daily exercise – walking the streets looking for a road I’ve not walked down before – I was suddenly struck by the paradox in the current circumstances of those famous words from the parable of the Good Samaritan. The two who ‘walked past on the other side’. That’s exactly what I was doing of course when someone approached. Don’t get me started on turning blind corners and almost bumping into someone, but the etiquette seems to be to move out of the way, into the road as necessary, and look resolutely forward. I consciously tried to smile at people and say ‘thank you’ but eye contact was avoided as if the act of my looking in their direction might infect them. Very unlike on country walks where you generally greet each other. Maybe it’s an urban phenomena.

So passing by on the other side in these strange days of social distancing should probably not be just about avoiding each other completely as if we existed in parallel universes, but more about noticing the other person and acknowledging them, albeit at two metres away at least.

Dionne Warwick sang ‘If you see me walking down the street and I start to cry, walk on

by’. Although her context was a broken heart, even if we have to walk apart, having a mind about safeguarding suggests in fact we do just the opposite. We need to get alongside figuratively speaking if we can. We may spot the frustration of a family who are at breaking point, a vulnerable older person who is unclear what is happening or a relationship that is going sour and possibly turning a bit ugly. If you do see or hear something that does concern you tell someone in your church - the minister, safeguarding officer, a pastoral visitor. There is a wealth of advice and guidance out there on the internet that they can tap into, refreshed to take into account our uncertain times.

So if you step out, keep smiling. A chalk message in our road says ‘keep dancing’. Stay well and stay alert!

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