Sometimes, you will come across stories that will grow more and more inspiring and special as they are unfolded. Sometimes, these stories are just that – great stories. Sometimes, they are a little bit more. They might somehow strike a chord with us, or they might be extra special due to the fact that they are actually true, that this actually happened to the human begin sitting in front of you, telling the story.
Personally, I’ve been fortunate enough to hear a number of true stories like that, but few of them rival the story of Reginald Matthews. What started as a 30 minute interview that was supposed to be about him winning his first award at 90 turned into 2½ hours about the Second World War, Religion, the South West, Asia and why he’s never retired. What was supposed to be 700 word piece on an award and a teaching experience in China turned into 2500 words about…well, for want of a better description, I would call it a life well lived. A story about a 90-year-old man whose fascination with airplanes somehow ended with him sailing the seas until the tender age of 79, and going to China to volunteer and an English teacher at the age of 89.
Luckily, the editor at the local newspaper who had originally committed the cardinal sin of telling me to write the ‘long version’ of Reg’s story (and knowing me, he should have known better) was able to edit my meandering tale down to a newspaper-friendly length. That version – which I would say is by far the superior one-sitting-story – can be found here.
The version found here is the original, unabridged script that I sent to the editor, and perhaps a chance to learn a bit more about Reg and his inspirational life.
Any attempt to sum up a life in words – even 2500 of them – will invariably fall short. I’ve chosen to focus on three main parts of Reg’s life, and split the story up into four separate posts. I hope this also makes it a little bit easier to read.
Now over to Reg.
China and never retiring
During my time in the Far East, I had med many interesting people, and one of them suggested that I should go to Japan to teach English. I had never considered it before, and eventually the trip fell through, but it got me interested. Soon after, I was offered a chance to go to China to teach, and said yes straight away. I ended up in Shangdong Province Where I helped out for the next year.
Since then I have spent several years teaching in China, and I also found out about Open Doors Language School here in Plymouth. They teach immigrants and refugees, and I decided that it would be a great place to volunteer. I help out in classes, which is incredibly rewarding, and in return I get so much from both the students and teachers. They even let me follow a English Teaching course in 2012, which is usually very expensive.
I think that some people might think it strange that I still do volunteer work here at Open Doors at the age of 90, and that I travel to China to teach English. The truth is that I have never considered retiring. Partly, I do not think that there is a danger of slowing down too much if you do not have something that gives you purpose and keeps you going, but mostly it has to do with my beliefs.
I have read the scriptures from end to end and there is nowhere in there that I have found anything about retiring. In fact, there are many stories of people doing the Lord’s work when they are very old.
I feel that I have been called to serve something much larger than myself and that is one of the main reasons why I do not think of retiring. My motivation does not come from a ‘must’ but from a desire to serve the purpose of God in my generation.
The other is the people that I get to work with. Here at Open Doors, I help one teacher who has a rule that if anyone is late, they have to show the other students a dance from their own country.
To add to the fun, I dance with them, which usually goes pretty well. I have to admit that some of the dances are difficult. For example, the teacher is Iranian and once showed us how to belly dance. It looks amazing but I am afraid I just cannot get my hips to wriggle like she can – but the experiences that I share with people both here in Plymouth and in China are so rewarding. It involves helping other people, and I am absolutely sure that they, and the dancing are part of what helps keep me ‘young’.