As one year closes, the next lies in waiting,
The passing of time showing no signs of abating.
The lines upon my forehead, an account of their own
Of all the time I’ve been down here
And how much (I hope) I’ve grown.
Remembering the people who’ve most inspired my path,
Unwitting in their lessons to live, love and laugh;
Remembering their compassion,
Their care for kith and kin,
As much as total strangers
Who occasionally wondered in…
The lady from the psych ward
Who wound up in our garden
Brought in for a cup of tea
Without so much as a beg-your-pardon;¹
The kids who came from Belfast²
In the name of ‘holidays’,
Religious barriers tumbling down
In the course of children’s play.
The lonely new-employees,
The students stuck in halls,
The elderly with no families,
We must have welcomed them all…
The bringing home of strangers
To sit around our table
One of the lasting lessons
That I may still enable.
‘Greater Love Hath No Man’
The learning I acquired,³
A simple act of sharing
So silently inspired.
¹My family home was in a then-small village, easily accessible to all-comers via road, rail and the common land that separated us from the nearest town, host to one of many original outer-London Victorian asylums, from which patients would occasionally wonder harmless and freely .
²An annual undertaking of the local churches brought both Catholic and Protestant children to the village for a week’s holiday over a few successive summers. Barriers tumbled as friendships were forged.
³ Even as a young adult, I never used to think twice about inviting friends home to sit round the table, never for a moment (until years later) thinking it was an unusual thing to do…