Her Majesty the Queen is 96 today. She’s been Queen for 70 years, and by the time of her Platinum Jubilee in June, she’ll be the world’s third longest-serving monarch. By Christmas she’ll be second only to the Sun King, Louis Quatorze of France, who tops the league tables with a reign of 72 years and 110 days.
That iconic picture from lockdown, of the Queen sitting alone at her husband’s funeral in Windsor, has stuck in the minds of many people. Her faithfulness to her role, her consort and her faith, are all tied up in that one photograph. Whether you’re a fan of monarchies or not, that symbol of the strength of character that service requires challenges us all. What does it take for us to stand firm, to be steadfast, and to keep going, no matter what life brings?
I spent 5 weeks in a monastery once. Before I went, I’d assumed that monks spent every day wrestling with themselves, about the choice they’d made to dedicate their lives to living in a religious community. But it was interesting to see how freeing service actually is. St Augustine said something similar in one of his prayers, about God’s service being perfect freedom, which I hadn’t really understood before. Staying with the monks showed me the power of committing to a higher ideal, because when you’ve made a big decision to serve, it takes away the hassle of all the little decisions.
But for those of us not called to these kinds of big vocations, those little decisions are still important too. During the pandemic, we were inspired by the thousands of little things that people did for each other, helping their neighbours however they could.
We’ve seen many figures in public life fail us, making public service seem an impossible task. That’s why I find that photograph of the Queen so inspiring, because it shows that it can still be done. And while few of us serve so publicly, the pandemic has taught us that we can all serve in small ways. We’ve all got something to offer, because if every little act of service helps, then every little act of service counts.
I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.