News and Events

Ruth’s Records (May 2020)

CASTING CLOUTS

“Sing a song of Maytime, sing a song of spring’ – the time when we begin to feel that winter is over and warm summer days are coming (we hope).

May used to be a very important time for folk as they welcomed and celebrated the end of winter with dancing round the maypole, crowning a May Queen, Morris dancing, fairs and fun. People were well-versed with the warning, “Never cast a clout ‘till May is out”. Some people think that this refers to the end of the month, but it is more likely to refer to the may blossom coming out, in other words the flowers of the Hawthorn tree which are usually white but can be pink. With the vagaries of our British weather, surely the weather should control the decision of the most sensible clothing to put on?

This year, the bank holiday is on Friday, 8th May, to celebrate and remember the 75th Anniversary of V.E. Day when all kinds of events are planned.  People in 1945 had lived through wartime experiencing sadness, deaths, bombed buildings, fears, air raids, fires, food restrictions and rationing of food, clothing and petrol etc.
The feeling of relief and thankfulness that the war was over spilled out on to the streets with joy, and street parties abounded.

The Holocaust horrors were not known then, but lately we have heard so much about this, and the terrible concentration camps. Recently, I heard an amazing story of a Rabbi who was highly regarded as a brilliant scholar and who had become the Dean of a religious seminary in Frankfurt. Sadly, he had very poor eyesight, but despite this, whenever he was out walking in the town, he would raise his hat, smile and greet anyone he met, even though he was not able to distinguish between friends and strangers. Eventually, in November 1938, “Kristallnacht” took place when the hatred of the Jews in Germany boiled over and Jews and anything to do with them were targeted. Next, the Jews were ordered to assemble, and an S.S. Officer barked orders at them that those over 60 years should step forward. The Rabbi, being 57 years old did not move, but when an S.S. man confronted him saying, “You are over 60, step forward!”, he thought it better if he obeyed. The older men were ordered to go home. (It turned out that the younger men were transported to concentration camps.) The Rabbi returned home and then his door was knocked loudly.

The visitor was the same S.S. man who had ordered him to step forward. He warned him to leave as soon as possible, explaining to him that he had been a local area policeman who had been greeted often by him. “I couldn’t watch them take you away,” he said “but you must leave immediately”. As a result of this action, the Rabbi and his family escaped.  What an amazing story. The S.S. man had risked his life to do this.

During the Civil Rights troubles in America, a little before Martin Luther King was assassinated, a Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed and four young girls were killed. In South Wales, this incident touched the heart of a man who had a daughter about the same age as the dead girls.  John Petts was a stained-glass maker and he contacted the American church offering to create a memorial stained-glass window. He travelled to America to finalise the details, staying with a black family (an act which was against the law of “whites” fraternising with black people). The window depicts a black Christ, and the unusual shape came about because John had observed how a person flung out his arms and beat his body when a hose pipe was aimed at him. This story is another example of one man who showed compassion.

In the Bible, we read of people making a difference in a variety of situations; for example, the boy with the loaves and fishes, Joseph in Egypt, Eli influencing the boy Samuel, David and his sling. In modern times, we can recall Martin Luther King opposing and exposing black hatred in America, Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole nursing in the Crimea and Mother Theresa. What a difference one person can make. Malalia Yousafzai, the schoolgirl shot by the Taliban has said:
“We realise the importance of our voices when we are silenced.”