Fifty-six years after the first airing of the 7 Up documentary, 12 of the 14 men and women first seen as seven-year old children in 1964 in the UK have returned to share the story of their lives. They have been interviewed every seven years and this recent screening on Monday night – as shown on SBS in the first of three parts – we see them at age 63. As you can imagine a lot has changed for the children and what is truly remarkable about this series is that we can peer into the lives of these very different children and see the social and cultural changes at work – from the perspective of their careers, their marriages, illnesses, to poverty, employment and politics. It is, I believe, quite a unique study – a longitudinal study – where the key thread that is tested is a quote from Aristotle but linked to Ignatius and the Jesuits: ‘Give me a child until he (or she) is 7 and I will give you the man (woman).
In the first part (last Monday) we saw the cabbie Tony speak of the tensions between Uber and the drivers of black cabs in the UK and his opinions on Brexit but, also, we heard his struggles with raising one of his granddaughters. Then there was Nick, the farmer’s son, who left Yorkshire to study at Oxford. As an academic now in the US, we heard his views on Trump and the treatment he was undergoing for throat cancer. It was amazing to catch feeds of them when they were younger and seeing how they were then. I couldn’t help but think that the spirit of the child was still there in these more mature adults.
However, the idea that we can take a child at 7 and see the older person, a concept in reverse, strikes me as something very bold. It does resonate with Attachment Theory; namely, that early childhood relationships and experiences impact our social, emotional, academic and health outcomes later in life. So, yes, we could say, ‘show me the child at 7 and we can see the older person’, but I just think there is a lot more that life-experiences can bring to the maturity-shaping table of each person. For me, at the heart of maturing and growing and learning is the fundamental importance of positive relationships in our lives, whether younger or older, because these relationships help build resilience and a sense of self and help forge emotional development and wellbeing.
And that is exactly what we shared last Sunday in terms of the meaning of Pentecost in Acts and the writer’s fashioning of the new identity of the community enlive
ned by the Spirit and modelled in the words and person of Jesus from Nazareth: that community is best modelled on a strong and cohesive and united group where positive relationships can be nurtured and can flourish. It is that picture we created in our Communitree (it is still there in the foyer of the Sanctuary!) at our 10.30 service with the children. And it is that picture that is the call for us at CBC for our wellbeing and that for our children.