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It used to be the case that every small boy (and a proportion of the girls) had a stamp collection.  I certainly did.  I never took it terribly seriously, but one of my uncles was a missionary in Pakistan , another worked in the sugar industry in Trinidad , South Africa and Venezuela , so there were a reasonable number of foreign stamps coming into the Young household.  Later on I grew more interested in British commemorative issues, and for a long period went to buy every new set that came out.  The strip of stamps representing the Bayeux Tapestry at the time of the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings was one of my favourites.  Later still, I set up a standing order at the Post Office so that they would send me the new stuff, bill my credit card, and while their bank balance grew by a couple of pounds every couple of months, a new pack was added to a binder in one of my drawers, never to be looked at again.  When I married there was a resurgence of interest, since my father-in-law has a stamp collection that I wanted to emulate.  After all, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of philately.  However, I eventually got the sense that this was not going to be an ongoing major part of my life, and I saw the year 2000 as an opportunity to draw things to a close, and determined that the last issue of that year would be my last purchase.

So now my stamp collection is a static thing.  Very nice to look at – my opinion that some stamps are little works of art is unchanged – but it will not now go anywhere, or grow.  The collection is stagnant.  The product of an enthusiasm that just isn’t there any more.  I confess there have been other, occasional interests that have gone so far and then stopped.

On a more high-tech basis, consider how the same applies to a lot of information that you can find on the world-wide-web.  To create your own web site used to be very unusual.  When you do it for the first time and then reflect that anyone in the world can then access your little part of this unimaginably great resource, it is quite exciting.  But so much of the material on the internet is unchanged, and will not change until it is eventually deleted.  In 2000 we began a “family” website – at the moment it is frozen in time with some photos, chat and other stuff relating to Christmas 2001!  I also began a web site intended to help with some aspects of my work as a minister.  I looked the other day to remind myself how out of date it was, and discovered an advert for a training course that took place in March 2002.

But I mustn’t kick myself too hard.  At the same time as those particular projects have stalled (for the time being), there are others that have recaptured the imagination, and allowed me, for example, to collaborate with my son in putting together a web site on which to put cartoons of a character he invented for our church magazine (it is www.cassockman.com, if Christine allows me to advertise!), and in the last few weeks I have uploaded some pictures of a World War One autograph album I discovered, kept by my Great-Aunt during her service as a nurse.  I may return to the latter subject in another article.

So what’s my point?  It is obviously not a disaster or a particularly earth-shattering thing if we take up new interests and then neglect them.  Unless the new “interests” are people.  The stamp collection and the website are inanimate.  When we begin something that ought to be a two-way commitment, then simply give up, that’s when it really matters.  That’s when it’s wrong.  The old advertising slogan “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas” ought to apply to our human friendships and relationships, too.  The good that we can do, the benefit we can gain is worth us working at it, persevering, not giving up when it gets difficult, or when something new comes over the horizon.

 (c) Copyright Bill Young 2004