Some of my most interesting conversations with people take place at wakes, and yesterday was no exception. A wonderful privilege to be given the gift of time to talk to a nephew, a school teacher in south London. He spoke of the real privilege of being able to be a long-term, loving presence in the lives of young people who often have not known that in the context of family, and who are written-off by society, scared out of their wits by a press media that over-reports knife crime (some only carrying knives because they are so scared of others carrying knives).
He spoke of their potential, of how they respond to calm; of all pupils being asked to be actively engaged with the wider community through projects, volunteering, and spending time with the older residents; and of local shopkeepers signing-up their shops as designated safe places, should any pupil feel scared on the streets. Of developing a school roof-top garden, with the aim of selling vegetables on a stall in the neighbouring market...
I asked him if there was a time-limit on living in London, if it was a younger man’s game? He responded that London can be whatever you want it to be, that his London today is not the same as his London ten years ago. That London magnifies how you are within yourself, so if you are habitually stressed it will be stressful, and if you are meditative, it will afford you the river and bridges and architecture and all the scope to ponder life.
His vocation was abundantly evident, his enthusiasm palpable, his love for teaching and the kids he teaches and for life and for living where he does. It was a joy and a privilege, and a challenge and encouragement, to listen to him, to ask questions of him and learn from him.
At one point, he described his life as blessed. And it was clear that he lived a blessed life, that he received life as a gift and saw it as a gift with which to bless others.