My mum, who died last year, was a shy woman, but warmly hospitable. She also took much pleasure in cleaning and ironing – a trait that I have not inherited. Before selling Mum’s house, I invited all the family to choose the items they would like to keep. She had nothing of any significant material value, so that did not affect the decisions. My three children chose first the ironing board (that had been a wedding present in 1956), her teapot and biscuit jar – all poignant reminders of Mum. Each is now in regular use in their homes and acts as a prompt to remind us all of her love, of the relationships and memories we share. The objects, simple as they are, tell a story.
Neil MacGregor, Christian and former director of the British Museum, is presenting a 30 part series on Radio 4, called ‘Living with the Gods’. In each episode, he uses several items from the collections in the museum to tell the stories of how faith has played a part in human lives for thousands of years. It might be items used in worship, worn as part of a shared identity, or passed around the campfire as stories are told. Each one speaks of the way faith brings meaning to life and a sense of belonging.
My 3-year-old grandson Kit, who started nursery in September, has discovered the pleasure of ‘show and tell’. He took in some photos of a recent family picnic beside Coniston Water and talked about the afternoon, especially the time with Grandad on his windsurfer board (without the sail!). Those photographs and the stories of the splashing and the laughter are important to him as he develops a sense of his identity, growing up surrounded by people who love him.
As Christians we are all called to ‘tell our story’ and how that connects to God’s story. Maybe there are objects precious to you; ones that you wear, photographs you treasure, something you hold or that sits in your living room that are part of your faith story. For some of us, those may make a great starting point for sharing our story; explaining what it means to know we are loved by God, that our identity and the meaning in our lives come from our relationship with him. We don’t have to have years of theological training before we begin – a three year old can ‘show and tell’ and everyone loves a story.