It was the spring of 1999. Michael and I had finished our tea. He picked up his hat and we went from the rectory to cross the road to the parish hall where the parish Boys’ Brigade company was holding its weekly meeting. We stood at the kerb waiting to cross and Michael rolled back and forth on the balls of his feet, an intense expression of happiness on his face.
It was a moment of extraordinary vividness, a moment of profound awareness. There seemed there could be no greater contentment than there was in that single moment. It was a moment that lasted no more than a few seconds, yet it has retained its sharpness, it is unfaded in more than twenty years.
Were I to have told him at the time what delight there had been in standing at that roadside, he would have thought it odd. How could crossing the road on the way to Boys’ Brigade have been something special? How did it differ from going to Boys’ Brigade on any other night? If I told him now of that moment when he was eight years old, he would probably have no recall of it and would justifiably wonder why it was worthy of recall.
Reading The Spirit of the Child by David Hay and Rebecca Nye, I wished I had bought it when it had been published in 1998. Much that I did in the years of parish ministry would have been done better, far better, and I might have understood that moment which was to occur the following spring.
Exploring the spirituality of children, something much different from the religion of children, the book looks at how children live in the here and now. Reading it, I put the book on the floor beside me and thought about that distant evening.
Perhaps we all know, anyway, that children live in the here and now, memories of the past are short and the future is something vague and distant. It is the here and nowness that allows them to live the present moment to the full, to find satisfaction and happiness in the everyday.
There was a realisation in my pondering that, just for a second or two, in 1999, I had managed to capture in my own mind what it meant to be an eight year old who had just enjoyed a good tea and who was now going to join in something that always brought him excitement. Would that I had been able to live in the here and now more often.