Having to write a sketch of someone in my life for a writers meeting, made me think of people who have directly influenced my own direction in life. I also looked up to some wonderful people who imitated Christ in the way they lived for other people. They became my heroes, exemplifying the best way to leave one’s mark on the world.
I had several godly women in my life who set me an example of kindness to others, faith in God and especially loving one another. My mother was a busy shop owner who loved Jesus; she always put us first in her thoughts. She encouraged us at school, would not take “I can’t” for an answer and always told us to remember those who had been kind to us. Another dictum of hers was, “If it isn’t honest, helpful or kind, don’t say it.” I don’t remember her ever being angry. If she was annoyed or upset, she sang a hymn until she felt better.
My mother had two lovely sisters who were more than kind to me and my brother. One gave us unconditional love and told silly stories; another was a teacher who showed us interesting ways to learn and develop a better vocabulary. She introduced me to the theatre and music, and took us to a Butlin’s Holiday Camp in 1947 geared to young children like us after teaching all year.Years later, I played games with our children in the car that my aunt had played with me. One great game is making up a quick sentence from letters on a car:so ACFG becomes ‘all children follow games’.
I also had another aunt who took us to Church, then Sunday School in Wales in wartime and encouraged us in our faith. Like my mother, she was a member of the Mother’s Union and she spent many hours helping with church outreach as well as bringing up my five cousins. But she always made time for us to have fun as teenagers too. She sang a song that is almost a motto for me; it is called “If I can help somebody, then my living will not be in vain.” My own life story would be incomplete without the example of such fine family members. I believe anyone’s life story will reveal the influence of close relatives.
I was fortunate to be part of a big loving family. My mother was the fifth child of eleven children and,because of circumstances in the 1930’s, her youngest brother came to live with us while I grew up. He was one of the kindest people I have ever known. He was always available to help my busy mother; he taught me to drive a car and how to play tennis well. My father suffered from arthritis and heart problems so, having a young uncle was an asset. My mother also had four bachelor brothers who lived in the family home where we lived during wartime. They had all started in the coal mines but two got out through having silicosis and were both drivers who refined my driving skills and my brother’s on very hilly Welsh mountain roads. Because they became adults during the depression, they had not married and their love for us was strong. Our oldest uncle was self educated and could quote poetry and parts of Shakespeare’s plays. He also loved the stories of the author Walter Scott. Another uncle could tap dance and would join me to entertain the family while our other uncle who was involved as a hospital engineer had a good baritone voice and showed us the value of learning to sing and enjoy singing together. I remember him singing with my auntie May when the war was over. They sang so well together and we all joined in in harmony. Those kinds of experiences are never forgotten and filled my childhood with joy, love and security. To this day, music is always a part of family gatherings with my cousins.
Outside my family there were others; good teachers who opened up literature and history to me and, most of all my old music teacher. She was very demanding but showed appreciation for good lesson preparation. At her historic home in Canterbury, I discovered a different world full of music, theory, old pictures and wonderful recordings. My appreciation for classical music dates from my five years with Miss Bridge when I was at the Simon Langton grammar school.
Even people I read about and immediately admired have had an influence. One was the missionary Gladys Aylward who went to China; another was Dr.Albert Schweitzer, medical missionary in Africa and another, Elizabeth Fry, a prison reformer. They all sought to help others and I have tried to do the same in a small way. Jesus said he came to serve and He is certainly worth emulating. It is a blessings to help those who need support.