I want to write a bit of a follow up from my blog post yesterday…
Mrs Penny was a great reader, and there was a part of us all that was scared of her – she was the headteacher! – but she was lovely. All our teachers were women and I came out the other end feeling rather mothered and happy, as did all of us I’m sure. We also came out a great deal more innocent than most other children. When I got to high school the other children and I, from Ladybrook Primary, had never been introduced to the notion of bullying, or of chavs, or of rudeness, or inequality. We’d been taught of course to avoid men offering us cigarettes or people with vans, but Ladybrook was a beautiful safe haven. Most of us were a little mischievous of course, but we never meant any harm. I arrived in high school and can remember the exact moment where I realised how “grown up” a lot of the other children from various schools wanted to be and act.
Back then acting “grown up” was about pretending to know everything, saying that sweet things were silly, that poetry was for wimps, that fights were shows. About being steel. About being tough. About hiding your deep, true self.
It was in a Foundations Studies lesson – where we talked about world issues, religion, and the birds and the bees – where I first discovered what some believed being “grown up” was all about. That anything that meant something, that made us open to vulnerability, was simply out of the question.
It was weird. Ladybrook is full of sun-shiney memories. Maybe everyone pictures their primary schools like that, because childhood innocence, once lost, is never regained. And maybe that loss of innocence shouldn’t seem like such a tragic thing. It would be bad if we were all innocent of the dark parts of life – we need to understand them and we need to do something about the things we can, about the starving and thirsty, the homeless etc. But too many people retain this childhood view of being “grown up” and bicker constantly, battling away emotion and playing violent games in the highschool playground – and for that matter carelessly aiming metaphorical bullets at anyone innocent for selfish benefit in adult life – ignoring the ideas we had of love when we were 5.
If being the “grown up” adult creates the threatening vision of selfishness, survival and pride that it did when I arrived in high school at the age of 11, then perhaps we need to spend more time re-evaluating ourselves, and less time evaluating others with our own judgmental heads. Not everyones fits into that “grown up” vision I was first introduced to of course. And besides, there’s no such thing as a “grown up” really is there? Seeing that, surely, is Step 1 in saving the world and ourselves. To know and love that we are always growing, even at 80. “Growing up with God”, the title of my blog, will never become “Grown up with God”. We are continuously learning. We don’t know everything. Step 2: respect the views of others. There are disagreements, but that doesn’t have to lead to the metaphorical bullets, or the real bullets, of war and strife. Step 3? We carry responsibility. Step 4? Every human being is a brother or a sister, and should be treated and loved as such.
I remember being very young and finding out about Guide Dogs for the Blind. I endured a chocolate fast to raise money and took my very little self over to a stand one day and told the old woman and her Labrador that I hoped it helped new puppies and blind people to be happy. I thought I’d saved the world when she smiled at me. I felt like everything was right in the world again.
It’s been a long time since I felt that. And I pray that one day, even if it’s from a cloud in another dimension, that I can feel that again. And – by God – will there be tears in my eyes.
Even if subconsciously for the first few years since I left Ladybrook Primary, the hymn my then choir leader and pianist (and my Year 5 teacher) taught us stuck with me, and will stick with me, reminding me of something vital, a constant dream, a constant hope, a constant prayer…
Shine Jesus shine
Fill this land with the Father’s glory
Blaze, Spirit blaze,
Set our hearts on fire
Flow, river flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth Your word
Lord and let there be light.