Jack and the washing line: Reflections on Nazareth from Walsingham

This is a story about Jack. There are many Jacks and Jills in my village.

Jack and Rose were our next door neighbours when we first moved into 7 Egmere Rd, Little Walsingham in 1968.  Jack was the foreman at the neighbouring farm. They were a loving couple but never had children of their own. Rose had contracted a very serious skin complaint due to obnoxious spraying in the fields.

Jack and Rose rarely came into our house but shared all we lived, catching up with the news from over the hedge or when hanging out the clothes. When Rose died Jack married Iona, his childhood sweetheart.

There was little Jack missed. He followed the comings and goings and knew each sister by name and by character too. A combination of humour and observation enabled him to point out a better way forward or propose some useful information and always just at the right moment! sometimes it was as if he appeared out of nowhere coming to the rescue in moments of crisis! To hear stories of Little sisters in different parts of the world intrigued him and at Christmas he sent a card to one or the other.

Jack is very knowledgeable about birds and an expert on owls. He could tell us exactly where to go to see them sleeping in an old barn up the road. He also knows the hedgerows and could tell Catharine where to find wild plums and apples and also mushrooms! Yes, we have known Jack for over 45 years.

 When Iona hangs out the washing, Jack carries the basket to the line and hands her each garment with a clothes peg. When she goes to the Supermarket he pushes the trolley while she searches the shelves. Faithfulness and a caring heart in the drabness of the daily round speak far loftier than words; to be there for one another is a reflection of how God is there for us.

We often see him in his garden.  Sometimes, even in the cold weather, he just sits and thinks.  At other times he is busy tidying up, or doing what needs to be done, watering his plants or feeding the birds. But he always looks content and lives life with a purpose.

Jack and Iona are part of our life as many others in the village who do not frequent any particular Church but for whom recognition of the Creator God  seems to be present in their every gesture of respect and love for his creation.

It is a bit like the stones in the back wall of our chapel which date back to 1754…. Lumps of chalk originally held together with wattle and daub. They are always there. Without them the chapel could not be. Many come to adore Jesus in the tiny host. Many are seeking for Jesus of Nazareth here in England’s Nazareth. They look for simplicity, the uncluttered essentials of life, for truth. Jack and Iona live this Nazareth in their own way and without them something would be missing in our call to be there in Nazareth.

Jack has removed the fence dividing the back of our house from his garden. He has replaced it by a row of big flint stones. For me it is symbolic.  I think of Brother Charles at Beni Abbes who kept trying to build a cloister wall and never succeeded to finish it! Ready to be challenged by life as it presents itself can make us expand our boundaries….

And now with no fence to separate us we are invited to share Jack and Iona’s’s washing line!