I have been particularly struck over the last five years by certain TV programmes. They are designed around a format, which introduces an unlikely stranger into a particular environment, where this 'stranger' then makes a difference to those around.
The most succesful of these programmes has been Secret Millionaire, another example has been The Choir. The joy of watching The Choir was seeing individuals doing something they otherwise would not have thought possible, seeing individuals become someone with something to offer, and seeing how environments, be it a housing estate or a boys school, can be transformed by a shared experience.
Last night a new series of Secret Millionaire began. Some may say the format is tired by now, but because of the individuals involved continues to be compelling and extremely moving. The wonderful thing for me is that the 'givers' ,those with the cheque books, are changed just as much, if not more, than the people they help (who very often have never seen a cheque for £100 yet alone £1000s). An affinity develops between unlikely people, which as earlier series have shown continues beyond the programme, and lives are made better. The willingness to be changed and to be emersed in a different (sometimes hostile) environment brings about change and a new selflessness, and transformation takes place.
I have termed these programmes 'Redemption Programmes' because they show me something of God in the world, of the transformative power of love and compassion and of new hope which can be brought to often hopeless situations. I am reminded of the Magnificat as I reflect on last night's progamme - 'He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and hath exalted the humble and meek.' Maybe the success of such programmes is because we have largely lost this selflessness and community spirit....very few may be millionaires but we all have something to give to another.