Sunday, 21 July 2019
Uphill Young Life
The priest knew the eleven year old well. He came from a very poor family and had a difficult life despite his few years in this world.
Tim often worked hard after school to supplement the family budget. He delivered groceries for Mr Harris to all the customers in the vicinity. The priest had seen him often pushing his bicycle up the steep hill in Carrington Road and Heath Avenue. Those two roads were steep all right … but not as steep as Nelson Gardens right up the hill where Tim often delivered cans of food as well as vegetables and other items purchased from Mr Harris.
He certainly enjoyed the ride down the hill when the deliveries were finished and his bicycle was light; but going up was really difficult, especially when it was dark and cold in winter.
He’d been working for Mr Harris for about a year now and proudly gave his mother the £3 a week he earned to help her pay the rent and buy food.
She too worked hard. She took in washing from a number of people every week to earn a little more than what she got by cleaning people’s homes.
Some time ago Father Ignatius decided to help her without appearing to be charitable and risk losing her dignity. He decided that the Altar boys vestments needed washing and ironing at least once a month, as well as various other church items such as the Altar cloth and other items of linen. He asked Mrs Bryant to take on this task for a monthly fee, which she gladly did.
However, this upset Mrs Davenport, his housekeeper, who felt she was perfectly capable of doing this work as she had done for years … thank you very much!
The priest diplomatically explained that Mrs Davenport’s talents were in the kitchen and that her culinary expertise made many a professional chef green with envy. It would be wrong to waste such skills on washing vestments.
Mrs Davenport acquiesced and peace was restored once again in the Parish House.
Tim’s father, Mr Bryant, was partly the cause of much unhappiness in the poor household. He earned a pittance doing odd jobs as a gardener; but whatever he earned was soon spent on drink. He often got home in a bad state, got into an argument which he started, and then beat his wife and son.
Mrs Bryant often begged Father Ignatius not to say anything to anyone, least of all the Authorities for fear that her son Tim would be taken into care and she’d lose him for ever. The priest understood well this dilemma, yet could not let such a situation continue where mother and child are often beaten up, sometimes violently. He had spoken to Mr Bryant on many occasions, sometimes harshly threatening to report him to the police, yet Mr Bryant would be totally and fully repentant, promising not to lay a finger on his family ever again and to stop drinking forthwith … only to repeat his behavior in a few weeks later.
Understandably, young Tim performed very badly at school. When you work hard delivering groceries every night, and you go home not knowing whether your parents will be there, or whether you’d be beaten for no reason and often went to bed hungry because there is no food in the house, it is very difficult to concentrate on your studies.
And now there he was … the poor eleven year old crying at the back of the church.
Father Ignatius approached him and asked gently, “What’s the matter Tim? Has your dad beaten you?”
“No … it’s much worse.” said the boy wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.
What could be much worse, thought the priest. “Would you like to tell me about it?” he asked.
“You know I deliver groceries for Mr Harris?” said the young lad.
The priest nodded.
“Well … today as I was delivering in Wilson Lane someone stole from my bicycle when I left it there to go to one of the houses. They took a few vegetables and packets of sugar and flour.
“Mr Harris got very angry with me and said I stole them. He didn’t believe me when I told him what happened and he fired me.
“Mom will be very upset because she needs the money I give her every week. Dad will go mad … as always.”
“Is Mr Harris the greengrocer just by the corner at the end of the street?” asked the priest gently, not forgetting to say a silent prayer for the Lord to help in this situation.
“Yes!” said Tim.
“Well … I need some fresh air. Let’s walk there and see what the Lord Jesus will do to help us about this! Always trust in Jesus, Tim. He will help change a bad situation for the good, if you trust Him.”
As they arrived at the small shop Father Ignatius asked the boy to wait outside and went in alone.
“What can I do for you Padre?” said Mr Harris from behind the counter.
“We haven’t met,” said the priest, “I’ve come with that young boy outside. He used to work for you until today …”
“Oh … yes …” said Mr Harris looking through the shop window.
“I’ve known the boy for years … he’s not the type who would steal, Mr Harris. I tend to believe what he told you …”
Mr Harris raised his eyebrows.
“Are you the priest from the church up the hill?” he asked.
“Yes, how rude of me. I should have introduced myself. I’m Father Ignatius from St Vincent Church!”
“Yeh … I’ve heard about you …” continued Mr Harris, “you lot buy a good deal from me. Good customers you are.
“Your housekeeper, Mrs Davenport, is always here fussing about what she buys. ‘Must have the best vegetables for Father Ignatius’ she says … ‘These are not fresh enough … these are too big … these are too small …’ and on and on she goes. My wife calls her Mrs Fusspot … behind her back of course.”
“Oh!” said the priest who had no idea where his household purchases came from, “is she here often?”
“Yes … every week! She fills her trolley to the brim and pulls it behind her up the hill. It must be very difficult for a woman her age.”
“Why doesn’t she have everything delivered?” asked the priest.
“She’s too mean …” said Mr Harris, “I suggested the idea to her but she said that the church is short of cash and she will not waste good funds on delivery charges!”
“I tend to agree with you!” Father Ignatius went on, “it’s wrong for her to pull a heavy trolley up the hill every week. She should have everything delivered … if only you had a delivery boy!”
“I see where you’re coming from …” laughed Mr Harris, “perhaps I was wrong to accuse the lad of stealing. He’s a good boy and works hard. Bring him in and tell him he’s hired!”
And that’s how the Lord Jesus helped Tim Bryant get his job back delivering for Mr Harris.
Father Ignatius had a little difficulty explaining to Mrs Davenport why it was better to have everything delivered, but it wasn’t a task that his diplomacy couldn’t handle. Three months later Mr Bryant, Tim’s dad, died suddenly of a heart attack. The beatings stopped once and for all, and in time, Tim started to improve with his work at school.