What a good weekend! Mellow, I'd call it. First thing Saturday our friends Tony and Jimmy who fitted our new kitchen last year came round to advise us about our misted up double-glazed window panes and some other ideas I've had about tidying up the house. It's nice to have people you trust. Then the family from Manchester arrived and settled in, followed by Bryan from Bristol; by Sunday lunch all the family had arrived. Yes!! I got them practising hauling me to my feet so that Jane doesn't always have to do it. We always get a Saturday paper when they're here. This week it was The Times, and unusually it had an excellent article by Simon Barnes, their football correspondent who does Nature Notes as well, about his son Eddie aged 5 who has Down's Syndrome. It's called something like, 'My Life with a tiger cub'. I've quoted from it below, and put the link up on the list.
All good things have to come to an end of course, and now they've all gone back to their week's work. It was a sort of early Mothering Sunday, because sadly next Sunday clashes with the start of the F1 Grand Prix season - and we have our priorities, you know - only joking!
We stayed in to watch 'Songs of Praise', which was about prayer. Although the music had reverted a bit to the all-in-black dull concert style, the interviews were above averagely good. I'd been sounded out about the programme, but I have to say three of the interviews - with Rowan Williams, Desmond Tutu and Jane Grayshon - were all outstanding. I don't always feel that our Aled is really engaged with the subject but this time was an exception. Archbishop Tutu talked about prayer in terms of a relationship of love. 'It sounds almost like marriage,' said Aled, 'for better for worse, in sickness and in health.' To which Tutu gave one of his chuckles in agreement. Jane Grayshon has had acute chronic pain (which is treated in a hospice) for 35 years, and she made no bones about how difficult it was. 'Is it hell on earth?' 'Yes.' I can't imagine living continuously with acute pain. It must be the worst thing. A good programme.
Later that evening I read Simon Barnes' article. It is full of both parents' love for their son. He asked a question our society needs reminding of, especially these days when some are being told they are useless 'burdens' on society:
'What is Eddie for? A question worth asking, I think. The Nazis sent people with Down’s to the ovens, because they polluted the purity of the race. And before we shudder at such barbarity, we should remember that most women pregnant with a baby with Down’s syndrome choose to abort. It’s clear that many people believe that a child with Down’s has no point: that such a being is extraneous to human needs, a mere burden on society and, in particular, on the parents. Best get rid of them.
'The reality of Eddie’s life contradicts all that. At school, he is held very dear. The headmistress has said that her school is a better place for his presence: because Eddie is there, the school’s small society has become more caring, more gentle, more at ease with itself. At the end of the last school year, Eddie won the Peace Prize, voted for annually by the entire class. The prize is given to the kindest, most generous and most helpful child....'
He talks about people's reaction to Eddie in public places - and it is universally positive. But he asks:'Is that enough, though? Shouldn’t an individual contribute something to society? Eddie’s function is to be loved, and to love in return. Perhaps that is everybody’s ultimate function. Eddie enriches the lives of his family and enriches the lives of those he comes into contact with outside. That seems to me to be a life right on the cutting edge of usefulness.'