As many of you know, I bought a VW Camper Van about 3 months ago. I loved her a lot. You see, I’ve wanted one since I was about 14. I used to love the idea of having a van, having long crazy hair, driving down to the beach and surfing all weekend long.
The last year or so has been difficult for a lot of reasons. I’ve had some very difficult situations both in Bristol and with family matters. I spent a lot of energy, especially emotional energy, in trying to support people or deal with those situations – often leaving me feeling exhausted, burnt out, abandoned and generally not knowing where to turn.
So, early July, after a particularly unpleasant June, I decided that enough was enough and that I would look after myself for a bit. After all, Jesus says “love your neighbour as yourself”. And if you don’t love yourself very much, how can you have a good standard by which to love others?
How was I going to do that? Well, 11 years on from the original dream, I finally had the money to buy a camper. I decided on a life policy of making sure I was happy and free from my anxieties. I’ve even started learning to sing and swim (both major confidence issues for me) in recent weeks, and I love it.
But none of my new experiences or skills topped the feeling when I finally arrived at Cardiff Central station and walked up to a chap sat in a lovely 1970’s yellow VW Camper named ‘Pru’, with her hippy curtains, bamboo interior decoration, hand painted aboriginal style inside panels, accelerator shaped like an actual foot, and a decent sound system with an iPod dock… I knew before I even drove her that I was going to buy her!
We had some wonderful times. I took her to a Pub in the Wye valley with my friend Paul. She came out to Burnham-on-Sea for a day trip. We even made it to the heart of Brecon and back. Best of all, she was my bed and breakfast at Greenbelt festival. I’ve never had a more comfy camping experience – so much so I actually wanted to sleep more than I wanted to attend the early morning talks. Not like me at all!
And so one day I decided she should return to her, and my, homeland. A day trip to Barry Island planned, friends picked up, we were just exiting the M4 when the worst happened. She lost power, and in trying to get her going again, Pru’s engine caught fire and to my horror and stunned, saddened self, proceeded to burn up right in front of me. She went out in style, even with a bit of a Michael Caine moment when the fire reached the gas cooker and the side door, well, blew off.
I was gutted. My first reaction was “oh good, yet another thing to go wrong with this year. I have totally, utterly had it with my life at the moment”. Fortunately, I’ve learned to be better than that now. After a brief period of meditation at my dads in the hours following the fire, I became acutely aware that Pru was simply a thing. She was not a person. Moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal, and fuel lines rot and detach – apparently.
I learned a hard lesson that day: it can be really easy to gain our self worth, our enjoyment, and our satisfaction out of objects, out of things. It can also be really easy to feel victimised by life when things aren’t going well. But the reality is a little different. A van is just a van, and insurance means I will probably be able to purchase another one. But the treasure that is the presence of God in my daily life, through contemplation, through loving others, and through simply being aware – now that is never, ever going to burn up.
For where your treasure is, your heart will be also.
Rest in Peace, Pru. We had some wonderful times in those 6 weeks, and you taught me a valuable lesson.