I can’t sleep tonight. I woke up with a jolt around 2.30 am, it’s now 3.50 and I’ve come downstairs and made a cuppa. I’ve retreated into the mess that is my study, and have realised with a jolt that I’ve scarcely set foot in here for over two weeks. My recycling bin has one piece of paper sitting forlornly in the bottom – unheard of – normally I lob paper in the approximate direction, and weekly gather it all up properly.
It’s an odd time of night. When I worked shifts, 4am (0400) was well and truly time to eat, time to chat (by phone when I worked alone), and there was always a comradeship about being part of the army that keeps the world ticking over while most people are asleep. The radio would be on, and I’d listen to stories from other people in other industries, all up and functioning, checking this, making that, transporting the other. It was a time to catch up with friends around the industry, a time to study in the quiet moments, a time to make the decisions, a time to do the routines. I enjoyed working nights. I liked the autonomy, of being part of something bigger than me, and, let’s be honest, I liked the peace of no-one in the offices, as well as the challenges that arose unexpectedly.
Tonight (this morning) I’m reminded of the call to watch, to be alert at all times for signs of the kingdom of God, to warn others. That’s a very different enterprise from the generation and transmission of electricity, and yet there are similarities with the night shift. Mostly alone, following the routines, watching for the unexpected, and working out the impact….do I wake the press officer or duty manager? Should the watch(wo)man sound the trumpet? There are judgments to be made, and others out there in the darkness doing similar jobs.
What do I watch for tonight? I watch with prayer for those nervous about water levels, and for those frightened for their homes. But I watch for those using food banks, those relying on carers with ever shorter timeslots, those dependent on benefits which are being tested by people under pressure. I watch for a government which has decided ‘money is no object’ for flood relief (which may well be right) but which has not made the same decision for the hungry or the homeless. I watch…and I think it’s time to sound the trumpet.