My little boy has been ill for the last two weeks, so is really missing playing with other children. We dropped his dad off today at the train station and went to Chepstow to buy some things for the birds that have been delighting us out on the play area. As we drove through, he asked me if we could go and see the pretty lights, so we did. But on the way, we called in to the Methodist Church Cafe with a view to calling back later for hot chocolate. They told us that the children from the toddler group were there, but I wanted to get on as we had limited time parking, so we left. My son asked if we could go back and see the children, so we went back in and were shown into the church, where the children were having a fabulous time celebrating Jesus's birthday with songs and games. When they started to go upstairs for their party, mine disappeared with them, as he always goes out with the other children after church.
They were so sweet! They invited us to the party, asked his name and nipped out, post-haste round the back to let the very special visitor know that they had an extra one. After a lovely little feast, with crackers to pull, Father Christmas arrived and the very first present he brought out was one for the little boy on my knee - with his name on it. If we'd been five minutes later, I don't think Santa's elves would have had time to despatch one from the North Pole so quickly, but they did! And they knew to get something age-appropriate for a three-year old!
I also think that God knew we needed cheering up today and it was all arranged in Heaven, before we turned off the A48, before we set out, possibly before we had had our breakfast....
We got food for the birds after at Chepstow Garden Centre (where the waitress gave the little one "extra marshmallows while mum's not looking"), but unfortunately, I left it on the roof of the car as we drove off and the coconuts smashed all over the road. It was on a dangerous bend, so I did a swift risk assessment and decided our lives were more important than £6.99. We gave them peanuts and the builders tea when we got home.
I wonder if I can put a new memory on my Christmas list? Or just a better version of the one I've got. Last night, I went to Tesco's with my son's work of art (green nose and purple-striped cheeks) on my face. Do you know, no one looked at me twice until I called in to a friend's house on the way home? They must have really good training on inclusion - or just be very nice people!
Chepstow people are lovely! Lydney people are too! (Just watch out for the ones with green noses.) Come and live here, it's great and no one's paid me to say that!
Post Script, 10.05pm:
Black Country people are also wonderful. Aunty Becky, our son's real-life fairy Godmother, went on a mission trip to the Gambia recently. Her baggage was so full of supplies for all the children in the school that she supports and helped set up there that she had space (after leaving half her clothes there) for my husband's birthday present, which I asked her to bring back. Her pastor said of her on our last trip there, "What I like about Becky is that some people talk about changing the world. Becky just goes ahead and does it."
The link, I suppose between these people is that the Black Country lady also comes from an area that was not well off - a hard-pressed mining community, like people in the Forest. When the chips are down, it's these communities who will thrive because they help and support each other. I've been blessed by being a part of both. That's also what I would wish for Oakdale - the kind of place where we really do love our neighbours. It's not a cliche. It's the very pulse of life.