My son is working for a short while next to a prison. He has led a sheltered nineteen years, and is fascinated watching those coming and going. He has the very responsible job of gate person! Some of those visiting the prison call to him mistaking the site for the actual prison.
Today at dinner we were discussing some of those he met and it reminded me of a time I worked in an inner city childrens hospital in Dublin. It was in the heart of the city and because it was a specialist childrens hospital it catered for all manner of people, regardless of personal circumstances.
Many of those I encountered lived very different lives to myself. They had different standards and for many crime was a way of life. One day I was at lunch and I was speaking with a group of fellow nurses. We were discussing a particular patient when one of the nurses began to laugh.
‘That family are notorious’ she said,‘A law unto themselves. Most are in prison, and if not they are awaiting trial’.
I thought of the beautiful two year old I had treated earlier and said, ‘He hasn’t a chance really’. With that one of the nurses said that she had been speaking with the local priest one day when she had said the same thing. He had told her this story.
He was a new priest in the area, and felt very much like an outsider. The priest the parish had favoured had been transferred, and this new priest did not have their trust. Equally being new, and living in such a deprived area, was slightly daunting and he was more than a little nervous.
However as the weeks passed by he began to settle down and to really enjoy his new posting. He became very active in the community and slowly won the trust of those around him. One afternoon he was to officiate at a christening. The babys father was in jail, but out on temporary release. Many of the other relatives were also involved in crime. As the priest began to prepare for the ceremony he became overwhelmed by a feeling of hopelessness. What chance did this baby have in life? How old would he be committing his first crime. How long would this baby live?
The time came to christen the baby. As he changed into his vestments he said he felt a peace come over him. He saw beyond the crimes and looked at the large close family unit gathered here before him. This was the job he was here to do, not to form judgments.
The christening went without a hitch and the family were polite and vocal in their thanks. He walked home feeling humbled, and slightly ashamed for having been so caught up in negative thoughts. Once again he chastised himself for judging.
As he sat down to enjoy a cup of tea, something in the sitting room caught his eye. He couldn’t quite believe what he saw, so he put down the cuppa and went in to check. There in the corner of the room was the television. However it was not the small, out of date television that was there before but a brand new, very large, very modern television. There was no note attached and no sign of a break in.
A few days later the priest met a couple of the “men” of the family. Tentatively he asked them did they know anything about the television that had miraculously appeared in his house. Both looked at him in mock shock, and said they knew nothing at all about it.‘But father’, said one of them, ‘it went to the right man’. Laughing they walked away shouting back ‘Honestly Father, would we lie to you?’.
As they walked away, once again he heard that inner voice screaming out….
If you enjoyed this story you may enjoy other stories from my nursing days.