Just under a week ago, I fasted as part of the National Fast Day for End Hunger Fast campaign. It was not my only day of fasting this lent and today, once again, I am going hungry in solidarity with the thousands in Britain who aren't sure where their next nutritious meal might come from. As part of a commitment by the church here to establish a relay of people fasting throughout the season of lent I have been fasting every Thursday.
But last Friday was noticeably different. Although I went to bed feeling just as hungry, fasting last Friday was definitely easier than it has been on other days.
I am certain the reason for this was to be found in the collective nature of last Friday's National Fast Day. I knew that, up and down the country, thousands of others were sharing the same fast as I was, for the same reasons. I felt connected to something beyond my own personal act of commitment. I was not physically present with any of them. Most I will never meet. But in some way I do not claim to fully understand, it made a real difference.
It was a reminder of the importance of our collective experiences. A reminder of our deep human need to share our struggles, our joys, our desires, our doubts, our beliefs, our lives. A reminder of the need to seek out the real community which is able to both support us and challenge us, affirm us where we are and guide us to where we might be.
It was a reminder that our highly individualised, 'just worry about your own personal gain' 'individual freedom is the ultimate god' society is in a very unhealthy place leaving millions isolated, vulnerable, confused, and susceptible to mental illness. A reminder that alone, we risk not even knowing what we are seeking; let alone knowing where to find it.
It was a reminder that we can only be the "I" we really want to be in the midst of the "we" that surrounds us. A reminder, therefore, that if we spend less time worrying about the "I" and more energy building the "we"; we might just find that, in the process, the "I" becomes something beyond what we imagined to be possible.