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Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 29th November 2020.

‘Worry’

Do you have any worries? I expect that during the current lockdown we all have worries of one sort or another. Let me take your mind off your worries for a few moments, by asking you to think of something completely different – Poetry!

Try pausing at the end of this sentence and see if you can name within 10 seconds three living, published poets. I can imagine that a lot of people will struggle. I have to confess that, when I tried this myself, after thinking of Roger McGough and Malcolm Guite, I was struggling, and in the end had to include Pam Ayres!

If, on the other hand, I asked you to name ten deceased poets, I am sure most of you could do it easily. Names such as: Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron, Betjeman, Keats, Pope, Owen, Burns, and (if you are a Latin scholar) Ovid.

It seems to me that poetry has gone out of fashion. Can you recite a poem written in the last 50 years? I can’t. And yet, I feel sure that most of you reading this reflection can recall older poems that you learned in your school days. And no doubt, like me, you can still recite a few of them, or parts of them. A poem which came to my mind this week, and which I learned by heart at school, is this one, by the Welsh poet William Henry Davies, written in 1914:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

What Davies is saying to us is: we are going to have pretty miserable lives if we spend all our time focussing on our cares and worries, and spend no time at all appreciating the beauty of the wonderful world we live in and our many God-given blessings. Reflecting on the beauty of the world that God has given us will do us more good than worrying about our personal problems.

In the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, as described in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

The current pandemic has created a lot of cares and worries for a lot of people. At one end of the scale, people are just fed up with the Government’s restrictions, whilst at the other end of the scale many people are worrying about how their businesses or jobs can survive. I know it is hard, but if we want to avoid our worries getting us down, we need to take a break from them now an again, and turn our attention elsewhere for a bit of respite, if only for a brief time, to bring us back down to earth, to look for and appreciate the positives in life.

I was listening to BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday morning, and a lady being interviewed said that one of the things she found most enjoyable during the lockdown was hanging out her washing! She enjoyed hanging the washing on the line in her garden and then stopping and listening to the birds and looking round at the garden, which gave her a great sense of pleasure and peace. She was taking (even if unwittingly) William Davies’s advice about finding time to ‘stand and stare’. Perhaps there’s a lesson for us all there.

We could do well to follow Jesus’s advice: “Look at the birds of the air”. At the beginning of this reflection I asked you to think of names of poets. To take our minds off our worries, we could do worse than pouring a cup of tea (or whatever), sitting in a chair by a window and counting and naming the birds we have seen in our gardens this year, counting and naming the flowers we have seen and enjoyed, and looking forward to them returning and bringing joy into our hearts next year. If that doesn’t help, try counting all the people you have known and loved, or who have been important to you in your life. Let’s give ourselves a bit more time to ‘stand and stare’ at the world outside us and the fond memories within us, and give thanks to God for his goodness and many blessings.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Fr. Ray