I see that Theresa May has been talking about the role her faith plays in her life in an interview in the Radio Times (even though this is the extra primo big edition of RT, I still won't be buying it. I still haven't really recovered from the irritation I felt as a teenager when my elder brother felt he would go through the Christmas listings with a pen and circle the things HE wanted to watch. Imagine! I read about this in the Guardian, which also loops in a handy summary of things she said in an interview with the Sunday Times). I expect that the average RT / Sunday Times reader rather likes that nice Theresa May).
I imagine you're expecting me to drop into a rant about May's politics or about her belief in God. Sorry, to disappoint, but what caught my eye was this bit:
"As the only child of a vicar, Theresa May’s early Christmases inevitably revolved around the parish church. She attended midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and was back in church the following morning, with her mother playing the organ and her father preaching the sermon.... After church, her father often had pastoral visits to make to lonely or bereaved parishioners. Little Theresa – and her presents – had to wait...The religious meaning of Christmas was important to her, she said, adding that she would attend church twice in 24 hours, as well as spending part of Christmas Day at a social event hosted by churches in her constituency. Speaking to the Sunday Times a week earlier, May recalled one Christmas when her father spent most of the day visiting parishioners who had been recently bereaved by a car crash. The faith instilled in her so early on had guided her life, helping her to understand “the right thing” to do. She said: “I suppose there is something in terms of faith, I am a practising member of the Church of England and so forth, that lies behind what I do.”"
My dad is a doctor, and for most of my childhood, he was a GP in a fairly rural practice on the Buckinghamshire/Northamptonshire border. Reading about how a young Theresa May would have to wait to open her presents as her father visited his parishioners really struck a chord with me. My dad was the father to three young children, but he was also someone who was selfless enough to always put their hand up to be the on-call doctor in the area so that everyone else could have Christmas off. This typically meant that, as a family, although we would do all the normal stuff like opening stockings as soon as we woke up on Christmas morning, we wouldn't sit down to open our presents until my dad had finished his rounds... usually around lunchtime.
My friends at school often talked about how they opened all of their presents as soon as they woke up, but funnily enough I don't think I ever really minded having to wait and to open our presents as a family when my father was back. I probably didn't really appreciate at the time how generous a gesture it was of my dad to put his patients before his family, but it was just the way things were. My dad was (and is) the kind of person who won't travel anywhere by car without his medical kit and some portable defibrillators. Why? Because he used to be the doctor responsible for covering that stretch of the M1, and he always says that it was no good having the skills to help someone if you didn't also have the equipment. He's retired now, but as far as I know, he still carries that stuff around with him.
As it happens, he is religious (more now than he was when I was growing up and living at home, although I think that's purely a coincidence and not entirely down to my modifying influence), but I don't think it was his faith that was driving him to do the right thing... it just was the right thing to do.
If I have a strong moral compass today, then it's not entirely a coincidence and it's nothing to do with God.
...although don't tell him I said that because he's a cantankerous old sod at the best of times*.
*not a hereditary trait, before you ask.
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