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Reform Magazine | March 23, 2017

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On the pilgrim way: A good day with bad news

Sheila Maxey gives thanks for a good day with bad news

maxeyThe Friday of August’s bank holiday weekend turned out to be a particularly wonderful day. And yet, when I list its contents it hardly adds up to anything so special. The weather was just perfect – sunshine all day, blue sky with fluffy white clouds, and even a gentle breeze. A dear niece whom we had not seen for a year had stayed the night and we sat in the garden over a slow, companionable breakfast. We caught up on family news and then skirted carefully round the Labour Party’s troubles as we all cared deeply about them but were possibly not in agreement about the best way forward. Now in her 50s, my niece reminisced about her teenage years when she came to live with us here and, in our minds’ eyes, all three of us saw my parents (her Granny and Grandpa) sitting in this same garden. Warmed by the memory, she went on her way.

We packed Kees’ mobility scooter into the car and drove to the Lea Valley Park for a summer day out together. In the past, we had often walked or cycled along these waterways, found a waterside pub for lunch and watched the world go by. I had feared those days were past, but here we were again, Kees on the scooter, me walking nice and fast with my hand on his shoulder. And how everyone around us was enjoying the place and weather! Lots of families had hired electric boats; other older people were on the trip boats. A father and two young sons were earnestly trying to fish in the midst of all the commotion – although I noticed they had given up by the time we got back to that spot. Lots of people were on bikes, all of them so considerate of the scooter. And at the next table in the pub garden, a couple in love were trying to take a selfie while being very awkwardly entwined with each other.

It felt like a gift of a day. And yet we had just had news of a friend’s cancer diagnosis, the Italian earthquake had just devastated a town and many of its inhabitants, and, round our coasts, the lovely weather had tempted at least 12 people into the sea and to their deaths. Does such news take away from our gift of a day? I am prone to feeling guilty about the many blessings of my life but I have tried, over the years, to fight against such feelings. If those blessings, including the gift of that day, are from God then thankfulness is the only appropriate response.

I have to confess that, in my experience, pure thankfulness is quite rare. It is often sullied by fear that the good thing will not last, or that I just don’t deserve it. True thankfulness is such a fragile thing that is doesn’t bear too much examination. So I will let the writer of Psalm 103 take over:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless God’s holy name.  

Sheila Maxey is Book Reviews Editor for Reform

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This article was published in the October 2016 edition of  Reform.

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