Sunday, 19 September 2010

Radio Shropshire- Pause for thought

Radio Shropshire Pause for Thought I did on Mike Georges breakfast show this morning.


I peered into the large card box my mum had given me. It had obviously been in her garage for years
I began to pull out a few big brown envelopes.
Opening the envelopes I also opened a window to my past
There were myriad things from decades ago

There were old school reports containing remarks like a disappointing terms works then finishing rather ominously I give this warning now before it is too late
Other contained letters I had written to my parents .In fact I think my mum kept every letter I ever wrote.Decipering the rather scrawly handwriting , awoke memories deep within me of spending tedious Sunday afternoons at my boarding school, being supervised as we wrote letters home. I suspect any letter that was critical of school food would have been censored but we had to write something I solved the problem of filling a page by addressing the letter not just to Dear Mum and dad but also to the cats rabbits]s and dogs naming them all personally- we had a lot so problem solved
In another envelope there photographs of me in some I was in a pram, in some I was on the beach or in the garden one has me sitting proudly behind the wheel of my first ever car an old Austin A40 which was a bit of a rust bucket and if you looked towards the floor you got a great view of the road beneath you

What fascinated me even more were the even older photographs some of my mum as a young girl, others of her mum on the beech at St Andrews, yet others of a group of nurses on a hospital picnic in the Scottish countryside and others taken by professional photographers in New York, Carnoustie and Dundee; of people who died long before I was born

I have always loved history and really enjoy the series who do you think you are, but the old black and white family photos awoke in me an urge to find out more about my ancestors, and I have begun a journey of exploration and discovery which has brought home to me the truth of Leslie Poles Hartley's words “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

Now I haven’t yet got back very far at all -about 200 years- and I know very little about the Alfred Crosland living in Huddersfield in the early part of the 19th century but I have thanks to census records and then the magic of Google’s street view been able to see where they lived.

My journey to the past has taught me a few things but I want to mention just one this morning and that is the brevity of life
Here they are generations of my relatives they come they live and are no more as the old funeral service puts it
Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live ... He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.

A little bleak perhaps, but a stark reminder of not only the fragility of life but its transience also Frail as summers flower we flourish blows the wind and it is gone

This thought of how short and indeed uncertain life is should not lead us to despair but it should lead us to action
I was once associated with a school whose motto is Carpe Diem Seize the day

Are there things that you are putting off? Perhaps volunteering to help a charity or a book you want to write? Relationships you want to improve with children or parents or friends or even with God Himself?

Seize the day! Act now! Make a difference!

I have recently been reading biographies One of William Wilberforce who did so much to abolish slavery
The other is of Shropshire’s own Eglantyne Jebb the founder of The Save the children Fund

Both seemed to understand life was brief and both therefore had an urgency to get on with the work they believed God had given them to do

God give us knowledge not just of how short life is but how precious time is
May we act- right here right now, and seize the opportunities we have to do well and to serve God

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