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I don’t know how many of you use the internet, and of those how many are signed up to the website that allows you to get in touch with old school friends.  I have signed up, but so far have received precisely one email back again!  I don’t know if this is because none of the people I was particularly close too have also signed up, or whether nobody liked me enough to get in touch!  I’d better not think about it!  To be honest there are some people from school and college days that I am in touch with so frequently that we don’t need emails.  I’m married to one of them.

 Looking down the lists of names in the different years at my old schools, each name I recognise sets off a different thought, usually of one particular event, or of a school club we would take part in together.  And of course the teachers’ names (or nicknames!) can be just as evocative, and again we remember them through one or two key events.  Just about the only thing I can clearly remember of the last teacher I had at primary school (Mrs Wharton) was the last thing she said to us in the summer of 1971 as we walked out the door:  “If you don’t remember anything else I’ve taught you, please always remember that people matter more than things”.

 A strange thing to say to eleven-year-olds.  Were we really to forget the Maths, the History, the Geography, the English and the various other subjects we’d laboured through under her guidance?  Of course not.  And had we had timetabled lessons about the way that people mattered?  No.  But through the way she had behaved towards us and reacted to events during that year she hoped that we would take away not just the facts and the figures, the techniques and better handwriting than we started with, but also some humanity.

 If you look at the New Testament, you will find that Jesus left us with remarkably few “rules” to live by.  Though he lived and worked with his disciples for what we estimate to be around three years, when he was asked what the most important rules for living were, his reply could be summed up as “Love God, and love everyone else the way you love yourself”.  We are left with the feeling that to Him too, people mattered more than things.

 And if we all observed this rule, and if those that we have voted into positions of power observed this rule, and if those who even without a democratic process have achieved positions of power did the same, wouldn’t the world be a better place?  Putting people first is a good place to start, whether we are children deciding how to react to something in the playground, or world leaders deciding whether to go to war.

 Thanks, Mrs Wharton.

(c) Copyright Bill Young 2003