N.B. My first blog since moving to Southend. You’d better be in for the long haul or you may as well not be here at all.
First impressions: the church, I fell in love with it the first time I met it anyway. Its one of those places where you just feel welcome, comfortable, and just want to spend time there. The people are just as nice, welcoming, open and down-to-earth! Maybe its just because i’m a new person, and they are all going full out to impress me or make me feel welcome, or maybe its because these people reflect the love of Christ in their everyday lives, and live their lives as Jesus would have wanted them to – struggling through the hard times and coming out at the end having learnt lessons and taken hold of opportunities they might not have had otherwise. Christ-lives.
Take my host family for example: Barbara and Ken, both now retired, but not retiring! Forty-two years ago Barbara gave birth to Stephen, who has Down’s syndrome, and a few other illnesses which he has suffered over the years. Due to the time period when he was born, there were no facilities around to help people with such a task, and schooling was out of the question. Yet they battled on (already raising two other children under 5) and Barbara set out to change something. She set up meeting for parents with newly diagnosed Down’s babies, and worked with doctors and paediatricians to develop an organisation that she eventually ended up touring the country giving lectures and meeting to help other parents going through the same thing she had and was. Ken and a friend also set up a Trust that funds houses for those with handicaps, the one near us in Westcliff is where Stephen now lives. His life isn’t exactly boring either. He volunteers in a tea room, works at the church two days a week, travels with one of his carers to train other carers and meets with other disabled people to voice their opinion at a local forum. He also is an avid BBC Essex radio fan, loves the cricket on TV and has the best sense of humour. He makes me laugh.
It might sound silly, but I have learnt so much just being down in Southend these last few days than what I probably would have if I’d have stayed in Brentwood for another year. Things at home are so different. Yeah, I miss my friends a lot, I miss not being able to watch TV when I want, or watch ANY of the normal programmes I watch, or going on the internet and being able to meet up with my friends, but I’ve benefitted from being around these people, most of whom have had a much harder time of life than those I know in Brentwood. Life is so much more comfortable and happier in Brentwood. I know that sounds silly, but let me explain. In Brentwood, I was the poor one, the one who never had money, the one whose parents weren’t together (well there wasn’t many of us) and who didn’t have Sunday lunch as a family. In Southend, I’m just like everyone else. Of the six people that were at the bible class the other night, Simon seems to be the only person whose parents are still together. The others haven’t had the comfortable, money-filled life many of my friends in Brentwood seem to have. I fit in here.
This may just be the ramblings of someone who had a very early morning, and is having a very late night, but it’s just how I’m feeling at the moment. I’m not dismissing my life in Brentwood, I loved it, and I loved all my friends dearly, and am missing them like crazy (Note to self, stop saying: “At my old church” every five minutes.) Maybe I’m just trying to make excuses to myself about why I’m not feeling as homesick as I thought I would. But then, thinking of home now, it seems a million miles away. Life here is just beginning. I wait expectantly to see what it will bring.