I am supremely googleable – yes, that’s a real word, in English and in Russian.
With a name like mine I have to live with the knowledge that anyone on this planet can easily find out virtually anything they want to know about me.
But there is an upside. Regularly people from my distant past make contact, like signals from a distant galaxy.
That happened this last week. My phone pinged.
Dear Ross, If I’m right in pegging you as the bloke who dead-heated with me in an 880 yards race at St. Edward’s in the mid 1960s, it’s been a while. A long while. Half a century in fact.
It was my old running rival, Colin Howlett, referring to the final of the Merseyside Grammar School championships on 24 May, 1967. (Incidentally, Google tells me that Colin is the editor of the Oxford Russian dictionary.)
He continues: I’m trying to track down a copy of the spectacular photograph of that dead-heat published, as best as I can remember, in The Liverpool Echo. Can you help?
Well, here it is!
Clear evidence, incidentally, that I actually won. But this photo changed my life, a bit.
So I went to the offices of the Crosby Herald to see if I could buy a print. Alas, not available. But while I was there I asked if there were any casual jobs going, to fill the gap before university.
So I wrote as suggested, to receive a reply from the Managing Director of the Liverpool Echo group, on expensive notepaper I recall, inviting me for interview. Which I thought strange just to be a van boy.
So the first question from Mr Park: “Why do you want to be a journalist?”
“My lifetime ambition,” I replied, without missing a beat.
It was Richard Branson who was to advise: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
So I took the job with zilch experience. But hey, I was young and the world was about to open up for me.
However, there was a welcoming newsroom, who wonderfully supported me and patiently taught me the craft.
Stewart taught me to touch-type and write in tabloid; Nick showed me how to compose arresting intros, Barbara helped me work unfazed to tight deadlines and my supportive news editor, Moira, shared her vast experience of how to claim expenses.
Hugely valuable experience which I learnt on the job. I’m sure I learned far more over those few months than doing any journalism degree.
But that is how Jesus worked. He welcomed all kinds of people to be with him. And then as soon as he could sent them out on mission, by themselves. So for example: “The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” (Luke 10:1)
You can tell they were nervous, reluctant to announce the Kingdom of God by how they returned. Clearly surprised by the effectiveness of their ministry, “the seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’” (Luke 10:17)
It was C. S. Lewis who observed: “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
We learn best by doing and often God will call us to do. The chances are like those seventy-two we too will feel ill-equipped and hesitant. “Send someone else, Lord” is a response frequent in scripture.
But going back to Sir Richard, if God calls us into an amazing opportunity and we are not sure we can do it, no problem. Just say yes. The Holy Spirit will use all kinds of people to help us learn.
For that is what the word ‘disciple’ means, being a learner on the job.