I have been clearing out some of my books, a small collection now compared to earlier years but still more than is sensible to go on keeping, and in many cases more than I shall ever read again. Some that I have weeded out are being looked at by colleagues and they are welcome to have whatever they want. Others will go to a church which has a substantial library of second hand books. Some I have thrown away to be recycled. I have been surprised at my own ruthfulness. Together they represent much of my life and I have been surprised at how on the other hand I have been affected by remembering when some were bought, the influence on my thinking and believing they represent and, most significently, the friendships they bring to mind.
Some of the books were given to me by people who were very important to me and with whom I worked out what it means to be some sort of Christian in a climate of social change and religious indifference. Two of the books actually mention me by name and others evoke powerful memories of deep friendships.
They and several others have escaped my cull, and will remain as indispensable companions.
J.P. wrote his book as a result of my prompting.We used to spend our days off by going on a country walk and as we talked one day I suggested he should write a book about his interesting career – working for the church in traditional ways but then moving into community development in an inner-city area of social need. For some months we met regularly and researched his working life and he eventually wrote and published his book. Looking at it again the other day I felt a strong wish to talk to John, and phoned him up to celebrate our friendship.
It has all reminded me of how my life has been enriched and –sometimes got entangled! – with people I have worked with or alongside and who have sometimes had a greater sense of my value than I have had of myself.
With a life on the move it has not always been easy to keep in touch, but in their absence they remain important to me. The exercise has reminded me of how very fortunate I have been.