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08 January 2016

Welcome to my world

Welcome to my world

It's official: Dairy Milk is the world's favourite chocolate bar.

Or at least, it's my world's favourite chocolate bar.

The World Cup of Chocolate 2016 was hosted on Twitter by TV presenter Richard Osman last weekend. A staggering 1.1 million votes were cast in the tournament-style event in which 32 chocolate bars were arranged into four groups and voted on, with the top two from each group progressing into the next round, until the grand finale, which was fought out between Dairy Milk and Maltesers.

I followed the contest avidly, making sure I logged on to join the voting and commentary for each round. The event's hashtag, #wcoc2016, was soon trending globally, and bookies Betfair ran a book on the outcome.

However, I'd be willing to bet that nobody else in my block of flats, maybe even my street, was ever aware of it.

Coming on the back of the end-of-year quizzes at which I had fared pitifully over the Christmas break, this made me realise just how much we are able to construct our own private worlds these days. Although some events do have global significance – IS, Syria, the refugee crisis – there is just so much information available about so much that's going on, that we have to construct filters simply to be able to cope with it all. Occasionally something trivial will break through – even my parents are aware of the blue and black/white and gold dress that was a social media sensation in 2015 – but for the most part we see or hear what we are interested in.

It doesn't feel like that, of course. It feels as though we are constantly being bombarded with irrelevancies that we can't avoid, but have you ever had that experience where a friend mentions a film you've never heard of before, and all of a sudden there are adverts for it on the TV, the bus stops and in your local paper? They weren't conjured into existence by your friend's comment, but having a mental reference point for them meant that when you next saw them you noticed them. Your filters changed.

All the information was in the world before, it just wasn't in your world.

The newspapers we read, the TV channels we watch, the people we follow on Twitter – or our choice not to use twitter – all deeply affect our perception, experience and expectation of the world.

As we seek to share our faith with others, therefore, we need to recognise this fact. The things that seem obvious to me will not seem in the least bit obvious to my friends. So how can we bridge the gap?

A word that has been on my heart and mind recently has been 'hospitality'. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, used his New Year's Day message to urge us to respond to refugees with "hospitality and love", and indeed, to "love your neighbour as yourself" is the command threaded through the Bible, from Leviticus to Luke. He called these virtues of hospitality and love "our most formidable weapons against hatred and extremism". They are also our most useful tools for building bridges between inhabitants of many different worlds.  

Hospitality doesn't necessarily mean hosting people for a meal or a house party, but simply opening your ears, eyes and mind to their world, and inviting them into yours. A meal, or at least a good British cuppa, is often a natural way to start, giving time to open up and explore deeper than a conversation at the water cooler will allow, but the key is more in the questions we ask and the way we listen than in what we serve.

I'm resolving this year to work harder at finding out what's happening in other people's worlds, and inviting them into mine. I'll bring the Dairy Milk.

Jennie Pollock is a freelance writer and editor.  You can find out more about her here.

Image: Health Gauge