Passion, Compassion and Integrity: lessons from the example of Eric Liddell.

view of Eiffel tower through Olympic rings

[1] Since the first time I heard his story, I have been fascinated by the testimony of Eric Liddell. As a child I was so impressed by his legacy, I even named my pet guinea pig after him. The moniker did not prove prophetic: Liddell the guinea pig was anything but swift, and much preferred hiding away in his hutch than anything remotely resembling physical activity!

If you’re unfamiliar with Liddell (the athlete)’s contribution, permit me a brief overview: born in China to British parents serving as missionaries, Eric attended boarding school near London, followed by student days at Edinburgh University. He was a talented sportsman, excelling at both cricket and rugby. However, it was on the athletics track that he truly made his mark, and was selected to represent Great Britain in the 100m sprint at the 1924 Olympics in Paris.[2]

Anyone familiar with the 1981 Oscar-winning film ‘Chariots of Fire’ knows the rest of the tale: the heats for the 100m were to be held on a Sunday. As a devout Christian who wanted to keep Sunday as a day of rest, Eric refused to participate, so instead was entered into the 200m and 400m events. He took bronze in the 200m and gold in the 400m, setting a new world record time in the process. A century later, as the Olympics return to Paris, it is fitting that Liddell’s achievements are commemorated. At a recent ceremony at the Stade De Colombes, a plaque was unveiled at the very site where Eric Liddell clinched his legendary victory. During the ceremony, John Macmillan, CEO of The Eric Liddell 100 campaign, states:

“Eric Liddell’s legacy transcends borders and generations; we believe that any individual can make a positive impact on the world if they approach the challenges they face with passion, compassion and integrity.”[3]

Passion, compassion and integrity are good words to describe the way our housing support team approach the work they do in our efforts to end homelessness in York. They are passionate about finding homes for everyone who needs one. They show compassion to each resident, treating them as an individual and making sure the support they receive is appropriate for their own situation and needs. They demonstrate integrity day by day as they live out their faith, seeking justice for the marginalised and speaking up for those who do not have a voice in wider society. They demonstrate the love of God for each person, regardless of background and without discrimination. The impact they have on the lives, circumstances and outlook of our residents simply by demonstrating love and compassion cannot be underestimated.

Residents typically arrive at Restore having faced significantly challenging circumstances. We are always impressed when somebody takes their experiences and turns them into a positive story of perseverance and rejuvenation. For some, even the process of getting to that point is viewed as a positive experience, as demonstrated in this quote from a former resident:

“You would never think this, from someone who was homeless and struggling to get back on their feet, but I’ve had such a nice time finding my feet again. It’s been a pleasurable experience and I’m grateful for it. This will shape me for the rest of my life. This will make me the person I‘ve been maybe searching for.” (‘G’)

The support we offer varies from individual to individual, and is tailored to suit the needs and situation of each resident. It is always a joy when someone is offered keys to their own tenancy and given the chance to start afresh in a home of their own. For these residents, those keys are just as precious and just as hard won as an Olympic gold medal.

The opening ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games takes place in Paris on 26th July,[4] one hundred years after Liddell’s 400m victory. Even a century later, Eric’s legacy of taking a stand for his beliefs and triumphing in the face of adversity is a powerful message, but you don’t have to be competing on the world stage to make a big difference. Every resident who has, is, or ever will be part of Restore is given the opportunity to change their life and it is a privilege to be part of each one of their journeys. As we seek to continue supporting our residents and providing a path out of homelessness for all who come our way, it is our aim to do so with the same passion, compassion and integrity demonstrated by Eric Liddell. We want to show the same drive and commitment to ending homelessness in York as any Olympic athlete exhibits in their chosen event. That is how we can bring about a positive impact on the world. That is how we can change lives.


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[1] Photo by Luca Dugaro on Unsplash