London’s subway system is usually referred to as the Tube. It’s the oldest underground railway in the world (1863), and second largest in the world, serving 270 stations. The deepest tube is almost two hundred feet below the ground and during WWII, many of the tunnels were used as bomb shelters. There are 422 escalators that move people up or down to the different tubes. The longest of these has a vertical rise of 90 feet.
19,000 employees oversee about 1 billion passengers a year. Safety is an obvious concern. For those who regularly ride the Tube, the phrase, “Mind the gap,” is a familiar one. The complete version is, “Mind the gap between the train and the platform.” As you can imagine, with 250 miles of track there are more than a few places where the train doesn’t come flush to the platform. There are lots of reasons: some of the platforms are curved, the floors of the trains are different heights and don’t always correspond to the height of the platform, and the list goes on. You don’t want to put your foot into a six inch shaft between the train and the platform. Neither do you want to be the only person who trips over the two inch difference between the two. So you mind the gap.
In some ways this is a metaphor for our lives. We’re all busy trying to get to the next place we need to be. There are gaps our foot can get wedged into or that we might stumble over. Most of us have a little voice telling us to mind the gap and steer clear of these things. That’s good.
But what if we went a step further? What if instead of just minding the gap and looking out for ourselves, we made an effort to mend the gap? Wouldn’t that be a better thing? It’s not cost effective to mend all of the gaps in the Tube, and we won’t be able to mend every gap in life, but what if we just started small and worked our way up from there?
Every so often they have to shut down a portion of the Tube for repairs. When that happens, buses are used to transport people around the down section of subway. That means they have to go outside and steps are involved rather than escalators. In a crush of people, getting luggage or a stroller carrying a small child up the steps can be a daunting gap to mind. The London Transit has solved this problem by having Courtesy Porters—young men stationed at the top and bottom of the steps to help those with such needs. A small gesture in the overall scheme of things, but one that is much more helpful than a voice telling you to mind the steps.
The biblical witness is rich with examples of people who were committed to mending the gap: a woman named Dorcas, a man named Barnabas, entire churches committed to humanitarian and redemptive concerns. This shouldn’t surprise us because a cursory reading of the Sermon on the Mount quickly reminds us that as followers of Jesus, this is what we have been called to do (5:7,9,13-16, . . .).
Minding the gap is good. Mending the gap is our mission!