Wednesday, 21 October 2015

On the gift of a skipping-rope

"Martha, tha's brought me thy wages like a good lass, an' I've got four places to put every penny, but I'm just goin' to take tuppence out of it to buy that child a skippin'-rope."



So says the warm-hearted Mrs Sowerby to her daughter in Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic The Secret Garden.  And the gift of a skipping-rope begins a change in Mary Lennox, helping to transform her from a spoilt and sickly orphan to a strong and spirited young lady.

This quote was jiggling around my mind the other day, because life was hectic.  "I've got three places to put every minute," I thought.  If I wasn't doing this then I could be doing that, and if I wasn't doing that then I could be doing that other thing...

But sometimes, even in those kind of times, there is something that makes you say, "I'm just going to take two minutes out."

Money and time share some characteristics; a certain rigidity and a certain flexibility.  They are rigid because there is, incontrovertibly, a fixed amount of each.  If you have £100 you cannot spend £101.  Even more so, you cannot add even a minute to your day.  You can, if you wish, account precisely for every last penny, every last second.

And yet... when I moved into a student house with friends at university, we made a deliberate decision to be generous with this wonderful, characterful property we had found.  I don't know how many cheese toasties were consumed that year, how many cups of tea were made, but somehow, the food money in the old jam jar always seemed to be enough.

And yet... when I think I don't have time to pray, but I take ten minutes to sit down and do it anyway, everything else still, somehow, shuffles around to fit into the remaining time.

We can't do everything.  Maybe sometimes we don't have money or time for everything we need, never mind everything we want.  But even then, just sometimes, we need to take tuppence out to buy someone a skipping-rope.

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