The other morning I was sitting by a window in what we call the ‘front room’; only because it’s the one closest to the street and at the front end of the house. It faces North. It’s the window which seems to catch most of the sun for much of the day. On that particular morning the sunlight was glorious. I was taking a short break from some intensive reading: preparing material for church on Sunday 9th August. A day on which we were going to be thinking about peace-making. It was the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Two moments in history well worth remembering. It was harrowing but necessary reading, so I had stopped for a break. I needed to re-assemble my thoughts and feelings by using a mug of tea and my favourite snack; two chocolate digestive biscuits. I had a biscuit in one hand and with the other, I was dangling a tea-bag in my favourite mug; a big Star Wars mug with a picture of Darth Vader on it. I’ve had the mug for years. But as I dunked the bag of tea up and down trying release as much flavour as possible, I was ambushed by a memory.
A simple memory of when I was studying to be a minister. We struggled financially, like lots of poor students. I was married with 2 children living on benefits. I know, get the violins out. Poor me. Poor me. Pour me another drink. For 2 days a week I lived ‘ in’ the college. The rest of the week I was working in the parish. Whilst in college we had to look after ourselves with regard to morning tea etc. Every student had a personal cupboard. In mine, I kept a small tin of tea-bags and a packet of plain digestives. The cupboards weren’t locked as people respected other people’s privacy. Between lectures I would often find a sunny spot in the library, pull up a chair to put my feet on, make myself a cup of tea, and read through my notes again. Trying to retain what I had just heard – so much of it was new and exciting, and I didn’t want to forget a moment of it. When I’d finished my break, I would put the tea-bag on a piece of paper on the windowsill and let the sun through the glass dry it out. During winter I’d put it near a radiator. Later in the day, I’d collect it and use it again. Sometimes I’d get 3 cups of tea from the one bag. I was trying to save money. Quite pathetic really but every bit counts! As my Nan used to say,”Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”.
The memory that ambushed me was of a fellow student; his name was Bill. I was a stranger living in Manchester. Bill was sort of local; he’d lived in that part of the country all of his life. He had grown up on a sheep farm in a little place called Higginshaw. He was a terrific table tennis player and taught me how to execute a wizard serve. I probably can’t do it now. I digress. Like me, Bill was a big library user and had been observing my ritual. One day, just before leaving the college for that week, he asked me what I was doing with the tea-bag. I told him it was an Aussie thing; improves the flavour.
A week later I returned to the college for the next round of lectures etc. I went to my cupboard during a break, and discovered that it was absolutely chockers with boxes of tea-bags and packets of chocolate digestives. There was also a note. It very simply said: PG Tips – full of pommie flavour.
Little acts of generosity and kindness, are like sunlight. They brighten up the day. They also dispel the darkness.