It is our 37th Wedding Anniversary today. On this day in 1981 Jane and I shared one of the 3 happiest days in our lives. The others being when our children are born.
I posted this letter up on Facebook by way of celebration. I hardly recognise myself as the same person as the one pictured here and the mirror testifies to that daily. Yet I know I am exactly the same person inside. That is both a comforting and disturbing thought – that the years that have passed, and the experiences in them, have both changed me radically and not at all.
I’ve had a stunning number of replies from Facebook friends, which is some testimony to the positive power of the internet on the day that Mark Zuckenberg testifies before Congressional Committee.
Amongst those friends I’ve communicated with today are my earliest playmates on the Reso housing estate in Rhyl, friends from other areas of Rhyl who I joined up with in primary and secondary school – what an amazing melting pot is formal education – giving us our first taste of swimming in humanity and making the friends that, if we are particularly lucky, will stay with us a lifetime, despite the diaspora of work careers and aspirations.
Of course, my family have also responded. At this stage, I’d group my family into three columns, those older than me, of whom there are too few left and whom I treat with respect; those who I have managed to spend a lifetime winding up, and those who have spent their lifetime winding me up. For the latter two groups we always remain about 7 years of age in our mentality. A further group are family members recently discovered or re-acquainted with, through investigations into our family tree made by my Conway family. Which group they will enter is undecided, but provisionally I think they are destined for column 2.
Another group are work colleagues, perhaps fewer than you might expect, especially from my early career as time has taken their toll. The wonderful nature of my chosen career in teaching, for all its other woes, is that I’m in contact with people I taught from the time of my wedding onwards. They too, in my head, remain the age I remember them as students, although as one reminded me the other day, they are now solidly in middle age now. I’m so pleased to have such brilliant and caring people in my life and am proud, on reflection, to have been able to see them turn out to be so successful as human beings, despite exposure to my teaching in their formative age.
I’ve second generation friends who came into my orbit through friendship with our children, Luke and Owen. Amongst all of them, I’ve never heard a bad word said about other members of the group and their friendship has survived the different paths they have all taken since school. They are currently helping each other celebrate marriages and new homes – such an exciting time for them all.
Then there are the people I have met more recently online, or in my travels. These span all the continents and include a number of astronauts and former directors of Kennedy and Johnson Space Centers, aviators and educationalists who share the passion for the power of learning to improve the condition of all from Argentina to Australia.
I look at all this joy and happiness and wonder how the world can be in such a bleak state for so many. I think in particular of a young friend, Nour, who I first came into contact with through a mentoring project. Nour is interested in learning English and attending her course at Gaza University. She loves cats and spending time with her friends. Nour is like the best of young people everywhere.
Nour and her family are currently under siege in Gaza for what seems to be the crime of being Palestinian at the worst time to be a Palestinian. Just like the Second World War was the probably the worst time to be a Jew.
I hope if you have a faith, you will think of Nour, her family and the rest of Palestine in your thoughts. If you have a faith and some spare money, I’d urge you to commit some to the medical and humanitarian relief effort in Gaza and Syria.
I think the most important thing I’ve learned in all these years is what my parents showed me by their words and example: there is no justice without fairness and compassion.
We need a lot more of that in our world today – some of us have it in abundance and will be no poorer for sharing our good fortune around.