Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?

Having helped my son and his girlfriend into another new flat this weekend I have yet another new entry in my address book for him. It’s nothing new – this is my third son, and each of them has managed to collect what seems to be dozens of postcodes. Back in 1971 Carole King (it’s the 40th anniversary of the album “Tapestry) asked the question “doesn’t anybody stay in one place any more?”- just at the point when I was beginning my own wanderings through university and my first three postcodes in Sheffield.

The expectation is that we will keep moving and that if we can’t find work we will “get on our bikes” – or in the case of Ellesmere Port where I now live, “get on the canals” (there is an estate named after Wolverhampton that serves as a reminder of the migration from the West Midlands at the beginning of the 20th century). As we’ve gone on the pace of movement has increased – I find it strange, but laudable, to think of doctors and dentists serving the same community throughout their careers (often from the same room and chair).

Gerald Schlabach reflects on the Benedictine vow of stability – and recalls the wisdom of Scott Sanders in Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994). Sanders thinks that modern culture is wrong in implying that “the worst fate is to be trapped on a farm, in a village, in the sticks, in some dead-end job or unglamourous marriage or played-out game.” “People who root themselves in places are likelier to know and care for those places than are people who root themselves in ideas.”

When I visited a grieving family in a tiny farm labourer’s cottage and heard that the lady who had died had never slept any where else, and that she had never travelled further than the market 20 miles away I did think that “this person has never lived”. But maybe we spread ourselves too thin in a state that is not stable. She may not have gone far (how we love that phrase “you’ll go far”) but she may have lived deep.