Tag Archives: challenges

When Irish Eyes Are Watching

Father John Murphy stood back and looked at his church.  He was quite pleased with this tiny but perfect building that was his first very own parish.  He knew it was a sin but he felt great pride.

“Top of the morning to you Father Murphy.”

As he started to turn around Father Murphy ran through the list of names in his head that might belong to that voice.  “Ah yes, good morning Miss O’Dell.  It is indeed a lovely morning.”  The voice belonged to the ancient and diminutive local gossip. There were some who said she had been around for more than a hundred years.

“Are you settling in now Father Murphy?  Have you made peace with the locals?”

“I’m not quite sure I understand what you mean Miss O’Dell.  The local what?”

“Why the wee folk Father Murphy!  Don’t you know the truth?”  Before he had a chance to answer, Miss O’Dell answered for him.  “Oh, my goodness you don’t!  You’re from the ‘Americas’ and you don’t know!”

Without another word Miss O’Dell put a hand to her throat and turned away.  She was muttering to herself as she hurried down the main street and was quickly gone from sight.

Father Murphy was surprised at the reaction but he had too many other things on his mind to worry about.  So, he dismissed the incident and turned to go back into his office.  He still had Sunday’s sermon to write.

Kilkenny was a small village on the northernmost point of Northern Ireland.  It is said that the old ways are still practiced in Kilkenny and people guard their privacy well.  Father John Murphy was indeed from the ‘Americas’ but both his parents had been born just a few miles down the road from this tiny village.  He had been raised hearing stories about this idyllic section of the world and when he joined the church, he had let it be known that he would love to someday have a parish here.  It took many years but his wish came true.  Unfortunately, his parents didn’t tell him all the stories about Kilkenny.  But then, he didn’t know that.

Several hours after his encounter with Miss O’Dell, Father Murphy was working on his sermon when his housekeeper entered his office with a cup of tea and a few biscuits on a tray.

“It’s time for a break now Father Murphy.  You canna work your fingers to the bone.  You need sustenance.” She spoke as she placed the tray on his desk.

Father Murphy looked up from his work a little confused.  He had been working intently and hadn’t heard Mrs. Finnegan come into the room.

The woman who had interrupted the good Father’s work was formidable.  She had been involved in the upkeep of the church for the last 47 years and it was doubtful she was ever going to retire.  She knew how things were to be done and made sure everyone else knew it too, including the resident priest.

“I heard you had a wee chat with old Miss O’Dell,” continued Mrs Finnegan. “They say she has the second sight.  You would do well to pay attention to her words.  Do you want more than two biscuits now?”

“Um, yes, no, I think two biscuits will be just fine Mrs. Finnegan.  How on earth did you hear about my conversation with Miss O’Dell so quickly?

‘Now Father Murphy you have to understand that there are very few things in this village that I don’t know.  I have a network you see.”

“Well then maybe you can tell me where my pens are.  They all seem to have disappeared.  I’m down to using pencils that are much too dull.”

“Did you say all your pens are gone?” Mrs. Finnegan studied the young priest for a moment.  “Well now, they’re starting early with you.  You would do well to make peace with the locals.”

Before he had a chance to react Mrs. Finnegan flicked her cloth at an imaginary piece of dust and left the room closing the door behind her.

Father Murphy sat back in his chair and shook his head.  “What locals!”  He burst out.  But there was no one there to hear him, or was there.

Absentmindedly he reached out for one of the very delicious biscuits.  Mrs. Finnegan made them fresh every morning and he looked forward to them with his tea at just about this time every day.  What his hand closed on was not a biscuit.  It was wet and soft and quite unpleasant! He quickly dropped it and stood up, staring at the offending item.  It smelled too.

“Mrs. Finnegan!  Mrs. Finnegan! Could you come here please!”  He tried to keep the panic out of his voice.

Mrs. Finnegan must’ve been right outside the door as she was there within seconds. “Ewwwwwww they gave you a mud biscuit!  You are lucky, the last priest they gave him a dog turd! You’d better make peace in a hurry because it will escalate from here.”

Ever the efficient housekeeper Mrs. Finnegan picked up the offending item and made to dispose of it outside.

“Wait”, said Father Murphy as he wiped the mud from his fingers.  “I need to know what’s going on.  I keep hearing cryptic comments about making peace with the locals.  What does that mean?”

Mrs. Finnegan smiled.  “I’ll be right back.  Sit down and I’ll explain everything.  I just want to get rid of this first.”

Father John Murphy sat down behind his desk, in his first parish in the village of Kilkenny and wondered just what he’d gotten himself into.  He had heard stories but he’d always thought they were just that, stories.  They couldn’t possibly be true.  Not now, not today.  Such things just didn’t exist except in myth and legend.

“Oh, we exist.”

It was a tiny voice and Father Murphy wasn’t even sure he actually heard it but when he turned around, he saw a flicker of movement just at the edge of his peripheral vision.  He wasn’t even sure he had actually seen it.  But if he had, then that meant . . . it was the locals.

Mrs. Finnegan bustled back into the room with a fresh plate of biscuits.  “If you don’t take your eyes off these you will actually get to eat them this time.”

“It’s true then?  I thought it was only in legends and myths”

The housekeeper made herself comfortable in a chair across the desk from the priest and helped herself to a biscuit.  “You really didn’t know then?  I thought your parents were from near here?”

“They never told me.  They did act a little strange when I told them I was taking a parish here.  Why do you call them locals?”

“They were here first.  We come and go, but they are always here.  And they are always watching.  My advice to you, don’t make them angry.  They’re cute and adorable in stories but the reality is much different. Farmer Bellamy had cows that didn’t give milk for three weeks because he made a crass comment about the locals.”

All Father Murphy could do was shake his head.

Mrs. Finnegan continued, “You said you mislaid all your pens, have you noticed that your shoes aren’t where you put the night before and your toothbrush is always upside down in the glass?  They’re giving you a warning.  Be nice to them.  And they’ll find you fresh blueberries every morning.  They might even clean your shoes when you’re not looking.  And one more thing, St. Patrick’s Day is coming up so you might want to be extra special in your sermon.  They like that, the leprechauns do.  Because you know they’re always watching.”

The end

#Kindness

A friend said recently:  “I always feel better when someone smiles at me. It boosts my mood.”  It was in response to one of my quips and she is absolutely right: a simple smile can make a difference.

An act of kindness can have a major impact on the recipient. And here is the amazing part:  It is free (usually), hygienic, ethical, moral and (usually) legal.  Now is that not a subversive idea?

We spend our lives in pursuit of . . . stuff.  Money, power, recognition, acceptance are lures society spends its time chasing.  Is that a good thing? Actually, it can be good and it could be bad. It all depends on the outcome. But kindness is something each and every one of us has the ability to pass on. It could be as simple as a smile or a handshake or as complicated as necessary to achieve a targeted goal. Kindness does not have a template that one has to follow. It is just being nice to a stranger or a friend. It’s giving up your seat on the bus to someone who looks exhausted. It’s crossing your eyes and smiling at child who is just curious about the world. Kindness is the woman in her 80s who takes dog cookies when she goes out for her daily walk. She always asked the owner if she could give them a cookie and the dogs look for her. Everyone is touched. Kindness.

I wonder if it is a word and an act has gone out of fashion. That would be such a shame. We now have automatic doors so no one has to open a door for another. We have automated cashiers so we don’t even have to talk when we buy groceries. That is so sad. If we lose the desire to perform kindness then we will have lost far too much, perhaps more than we can afford.

A great kindness was done to me recently.  I was having my kitchen counter replaced and so I was without a stove top.  Hence no ability to make a cup a tea. (No, I will not boil water for tea in a microwave!) I love my tea in the morning.  A friend knew this.  She called and told me she was coming over. She arrived with a thermos full of tea.  It was my tea, steeped appropriately. I would have survived a day without a cup of tea but she knew I would miss it.  This simple act of kindness touched me deeply.

A simple smile as you walk down the street can lift the spirits of another. But we have to start. Each and every one of us has the ability to smile but its only true value is when we smile at another. I wonder what the world would be like if more people practice kindness?

We need to be kind to each other.

#Crazy?

 

I must be.  I’ll bet you are too. We must be if we think this B-Sht Crazy World is going to make it.  I mean think about it.  Our planet is a mess, we only have one world, there is no back up. And yet as hard as some people work to try to fix all the problems, there are too many others who are apathetic.  Even worse are those who fight against the solutions for personal gain.

People around the world are starving but we can feed them, we can heal sicknesses, provide care, promote education. But because of greed and apathy people don’t get the support they need.  This planet has more than enough resources to support everyone if we share but we don’t know how to get along. We really don’t.

Food.  It all comes down to food.  One of the leading causes of death worldwide, is food related.  In some countries: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer. In other countries: starvation. How can we let this happen?

We have pristine beaches we purposely pollute because we are lazy?  We have places to put garbage so why don’t we? We expect others to clean up after us. We want the problems to be fixed but we don’t want to be responsible.

Too many dreams left unfilled can lead to apathy. Which explains so much. We have improved our lives a great deal but we have lost a lot along the way. We have lost understanding, compassion and acceptance.  We find ways to promote hatred and that becomes all consuming.

Perhaps the most controversial problem facing our world is climate change. And we cannot agree on that!  Open your eyes and look out the window. Are your winters the same as they were fifty years ago?  Your summers twenty years ago? Some of the most violent weather recorded has happened in the last decade.  Cause for concern?  I think so.  And so do scientists worldwide.  I think I’ll take my cue from them.  Naming a problem is the first step towards solving it and that took far too long!  Now we need to fix it.  Or at least decrease its impact.

But we run into the universal problem: we can’t get along.  We are so blinded by our petty hatreds, greed and apathy we are unable to see the real picture.  Our world is dying.  It probably won’t happen in our lifetime or our children’s children lifetime. But is that the legacy we want to leave our distant future:  we didn’t care enough?