Author: Shaniqua Marie

A creative individual, who loves reading, writing, painting and watching basketball.

Don’t Tell Me

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
When our laws are grounded in Ten Commandments,
words engraved in stone translated into ink on paper.
Even before rules were recorded, morality was expected –
Abel’s murder forced Cain into banishment,
Dinah’s rape, the tremor of a city’s fall,
Rebekah’s lies passed from generation to generation,
lessons in dishonesty not paying off.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
If we calked God’s carefully laid path,
disparity between rich and poor would cease to be a national crisis.
Greed alleviated, generosity weighing heavier,
equilibrium reached through sharing at centre.
Not convinced?
Leviticus 25; Deuteronomy 15 or 24 will fill you in.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
Keeping Sabbath holy benefits health,
time to recharge between weeks.
Constantly grinding kills our batteries, shutting down bodies unexpectedly quick.
Powered by moments of reflection, fellowship with others,
plugged into rest away from hustle of working days.
Did you know it’s linked to Loma Linda’s famed longevity of living?

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
Foretold prophecies in Daniel and Revelation already come to pass;
others to be fulfilled in earth’s enduring story,
drawing near to its closing chapter.
Behaviours lined up in Matthew 24 and 2 Timothy 3 brought to life around us –
hearts gone cold, love for money verging on obsession,
disobedience to parents ramped to rebellion.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
Its influence glaring through film and television screens,
jumping off pages of fiction books – it has everything.
A hero tasked with saving the world,
betrayals of brothers, partners, friends.
Stories of redemption, romance, wisdom, war,
drunkenness ending in mistakes, polygamy ending in hurt.
Tales of actions supernatural, deep family bonds,
consequences of wrongs committed, mistreatment of those deemed different.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
Poetry and song hum from its verses,
prayer and praise run throughout.
Battle between faith and works not just for our time – religion blocking relationship.
Women showing bravery, intelligence, resilience
Men showing sacrifice, tenacity, strength –
Two wholes to become one, equally supporting the other.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
It’s provided comfort and hope,
Taught me right from wrong,
Advised how to live the best life,
Laid out inspiration in Jesus’ example of perfection.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant
without having read a page of it.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant
because you cannot comprehend it.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant
because you’ve chosen not to believe in it.

Shaniqua Benjamin

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Restoring Humanness to the Homeless

Talking to people like they’re people has morphed into a foreign concept for some.

Believing words need to be contorted from lips when bestowed
on those in a contrary situation to yours.
May as well inscribe the headline,
“No roof overhead strips you of humanity”
A story filled with anecdotes of invisibility, disconnect and interactive inability.

Don’t hide behind being insensitive,
Anyone with awareness and care will know not to put a foot in a muddy puddle and splash it in another’s face.
Fear of insensitivity, an excuse used to escape interaction
outside of moments that interaction’s door is not closed altogether,
shutting them out, when what is desired is to be let in to a sense of normality –
What is needed to be fed into every headline, so it ceases to be news reported.

No longer alien territory,
speaking to people in adverse conditions, like they are people, becomes home in your mouth,
Reacting to them as you would anyone else.
Reviving their feeling of humanity that had been lost in statistics
they had no hand in constructing.

They Taught Me More Than They’ll Ever Know

I couldn’t write about the people who played a special part in my 2018 without writing about Queen’s Gardens.  I spent a significant portion of my time in Queen’s over spring and summer, bringing me into contact with a number of people who I continue to love, in spite of what may have passed between some of us.

Queen’s is one of the strangest and most interesting places in Croydon, because of the mixture of characters you will find there, and also because of what takes place there.  It is kind of like a bubble, a community within a community, which you come to realise the deeper you ingratiate yourself with the people there.  I learnt a lot – good, bad and useful – which I will definitely be taking forward in my life.

I’ve developed relationships with some beautiful people, who I happily speak to and spend time with whenever I see them.  Due to some of their lifestyles, I won’t be using their “government” names or naming them at all.  If they were to read this, I’d hope they know who they are though.

I’ve known my Jamesy-James for a couple of years now, and he’s always been someone I find easy to talk to, although I can’t put my finger on why.  I guess he’s a great listener, and is definitely an all round lovely person.  I’m always excited to see him.  I’ve known and been friends with Gamma for a couple of years too, but I got to know him a lot more this year.  Gamma always finds a way to make me laugh, and I’ll never forget when he had me cracking up when we were hanging out in the summer one time.  I also love that he calls me ‘Poetry Queen’ – just saying.

Win is a really, really lovely human being.  He’s easy to get on with, easy to talk to and easy to be around.  We got on immediately, from the moment we met in summer.  After not seeing him for a few months, it was nice to bump into him randomly, spend some time chatting on a walk and then go to Kaspas.  Whenever I’m with him, I know I’ll always be looked after and treated right.  And you’ve got Frankie, who I first met in spring, but quickly warmed up to and also got on well with – he looks out for me too.

I saw more of a beautiful lady I met last year, who is always warm and quick to greet me.  When I ask her how she is, I love the response she gives, which is such a mouthful that I cannot remember it all.  I also met a young woman this year, who I found sweet, despite being very rough around the edges.  She is always quick to greet me too and ready for a little conversation.

After meeting him at the soup kitchen the church I attend puts on, I came to see more of this ball of energy at Queen’s during the summer months – let’s call him My Darlin.  Like I mentioned, My Darlin is a ball of energy, talking quickly, walking quickly and often on the move.  He is truly lovely, with a heart of gold and caring nature.  He’s always got a story to tell too, which can often be amusing.

There are so many others I could mention, including a kind-hearted sweetie who made me feel like family, and a group of Eritreans, including a beauty who brings me joy with his beautiful, bright smile and shining eyes.  However, I came to spend quite a lot of my time with a particular group, who will always have a place in my heart (some of them have a special place).  No matter what has gone down with them, I want the best for all of them and I will always keep them in my prayers.  I don’t think they realise the impact they have had on my life and how much I have learnt from them.

Through one member of this group, I came to meet a genuine, down-to-earth, lovely person, who is studying youth work (I think he’s going to be a great youth worker), and I could have proper conversations with.  I have time for him any day.

However, it was the one who introduced us that has probably had one of the largest impacts on me this year – we’ll call him my Knight (in Shining Armour).  Out of everyone from Queen’s, I think I ended up spending the most amount of time with my Knight.  I initially met him last year, but we didn’t really speak, which all changed this spring.  Somehow, we began to talk more and more, as we became properly comfortable with each other.  The conversation flowed and we got to know each other better, which was made easier by his raw honesty.

Like people I tend to get on with best, he made me laugh, although sometimes he would joke around too much.  He looked out for me, like many of the people in Queen’s would do, but he went above and beyond in some ways by being very protective – not in a creepy way though.  However, what I think most stands out about my Knight is the sense of calm he would bring me, especially when I would get stressy over the actions of certain individuals – it was funny how much he would come up with sensible things my sister would probably say.  He’s got a really good heart as well.

As strange as Queen’s can be, meeting people from there has made me a better, more resilient person and more streetwise person.  I don’t think they even realise how much I love all of them.