One of our new year traditions is the unveiling of the honours list. We read with interest the names of those who have been honoured (and who haven’t), most we won’t know. Invariably there are many who have served their country with distinction, often from humble circumstances and known to only a few. Only the more churlish among us would begrudge them being recognized in this way. But inevitably there will be surprises and some degree of controversy.
This year is no exception with the awarding of a knighthood to the man that helped to mastermind the campaign that saw the Conservatives coming out as victorious in the recent General Election. This was met with unsurprising outrage on the part of opposition members that such an overtly politically motivated honour had been made. Just as concerning is the giving of a damehood to a career civil servant that has been censured more than once for failing in her job. All this reinforces the concerns of many that honours are not always bestowed on those who are most worthy and what we are witnessing is corruption and nepotism. In addition, many have turned down an award or returned one, for a variety of reasons including disillusionment with the system.
It seems to me that the bestowing of honours has been around for time immemorial and that from a worldly perspective the highest honours are given by the rich and mighty, often in return for past favours. I can think of many who I would honour before those who have in fact been honoured, some of who have died in the past year (like Claire Joseph – medical missionary in India and Terry Whitman – community activist in my own locality). But that is not the way of a world that often fails to recognise true worth.
When yesterday I was talking to some friends about the work I am involved in, as in the areas of mental health and homelessness, the subject of people who have made a contribution in serving those affected came up in our discussions. It became evident that what I and others do in these areas these days is thanks to the essential groundwork of those who have gone before, who few these days would recognize but did what they did because they saw a need.
Without wanting to sound sanctimonious, it seems to me that the best people and the ones who deserve the greatest honours don’t receive them (sometimes quite the opposite). These are often people who don’t look for recognition and often shy away from the limelight, yet see what needs doing and then goes and do it. These are recognized by just a few, and yet they have made the biggest difference. One day we all have to stand before Almighty God and it is He who will befittingly honour those who deserve honour.