Thought for the Week: Memories

Connie Hazell reflects on on community and encouragement

Reading reports of anti-Semitism in the UK saddens me, but also brings back memories of my childhood when into our road of about thirty houses moved the Jacobs family – father, mother, a little boy of six and a little girl of four. We were a close-knit community. Almost every house had children in it, most of whom went to the primary school in the next road and the majority going to the Methodist Sunday School just around the corner.

Bournemouth had had a thriving Jewish community for very many years, but we had not actually had a Jewish family living in the road before. If the grown-ups commented on this fact, we children didn’t hear it – and children usually hear more than their parents realise. The word ‘integration’ was not heard much in those days, but looking back I realise the Jacobs family quickly became very much part of the neighbourhood.

It was the year I was to change schools, and because of this I had at last been given my first, longed-for bicycle. It stood in all its pristine, shiny glory, propped up against the cherry tree in the back garden. The problem was I couldn’t ride it. Mother had never ridden a bicycle and father wasn’t well enough to teach me.

One of the neighbours came to the rescue, although I think if she had known how long it would take she might not have offered. So, during the August holidays, she would attempt to keep me upright enough to ride ‘around the block’.

Mrs Jacobs, now expecting her third child, would stand at the gate in the cool of the evening, watching proceedings, occasionally bringing me out a glass of water or a sticking plaster. More than that, she would call out encouragement: ‘Come on’, ‘Up you get’, ‘Try again – you can do it’. And, finally, I did.

I often think fondly of the Jacobs family, the children now scattered, and I realise how important it is to give encouragement. As Friends get older, and regretfully have to relinquish tasks they once enjoyed, it is important that they encourage those who are taking their place.

When I first came to the Religious Society of Friends I was told that Quakers do not give thanks or praise, as everything is done for the ‘glory of God’. So it is, but I still think quiet words of encouragement have their place.

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