For several months I have attempted to write my life story for the sake of my children, in order that the family history is not lost or forgotten. How I have regretted not asking family members about their lives, who are now departed, resulting in those precious memories lost forever.
It is interesting when looking at the first eight years of my childhood I had moved six times and attended four junior schools, having to make new friends and face different styles of teaching and having to write in Italic at Hanham Abbots, which ruined my handwriting forever. What is well known is, I have now lived in the same house since I was nine years of age. Perhaps too many moves had an effect on me?
When working for the three Building Societies, the senior managers were quite surprised that I had not moved in my career, always working either in Bristol, Keynsham and Bath. The same when I joined the DWP, again moving between Bristol and Bath? Many of my school chums moved around the country and some to live and work in other countries. Yet for me stability and home were especially important. Some of my acquaintances thought I was boring and too staid, senior management of the National companies thought me unadventurous and that I would never set the world on fire. How right they were.
In our changing and unsettled world, vast numbers of people are always on the move, some intentionally, to better themselves, others because of war, famine, disasters, or governmental policies. (e.g. Idi Amin and Uganda). When working for the Pensions Service (DWP) as a Visiting Officer, I came across many households, who had come to the UK because of these sorts of events, nearly all were contributing to our economy and labour market. Yet underlying these huge movements of people are individuals and families seeking a life, where they can put down roots and become a stable family unit.
When we read the Old Testament, we hear the story of another group of people moving and wandering in the desert searching for the Promised Land, where they could put down roots and become a settled nation, after years of subjugation and slavery. Of course, later in their history many were sent into exile in Babylon, yet to return to their beloved homeland years later.
It is strange to make the comparison as Christians talking of settling and putting down roots, yet being reminded we are a pilgrim people, meaning we are on a journey to seek God, but that can be as we say virtual or for some physical. Yet we always need to be seeking God in our lives whether it is somewhere else in the world, by walking the many Pilgrim Routes, the desert or just in our garden or study. Each year as a Franciscan, I am expected to go on Retreat, although this year it will not be possible. I always find retreats calming, uplifting and I do find I can reflect on those areas of my life, which need attention and during the silences and monastic worship, find a closeness with God and his creation. Most of my retreats are mainly silent, apart from occasional reflection groups.
So we may be missing our holidays abroad, our weekend City Breaks in Europe but at the end of the day we can all say there is no place like home. As I end this reflection let us call to mind those who have come to the end of their earthly journey, their pilgrimage, having reached their true spiritual home. Joan Carter, Ellice Turner, Patricia Lethaby, Geoff Mills and Maureen Machin.
I will finish with some reflections by Thomas Merton from his book entitle, “A Book of Hours.”
Good Shepherd. You have a wild and crazy sheep in love with thorns and brambles. But please don’t get tired of looking for me! I know You won’t. For you have found me. All I have to do is to stay found.
Let go of all that seems to suggest getting somewhere, being someone, having a name and a voice, following policy and directing people in ”my ways” ways. What matters is to love.