Tag Archives: school

6 October: The Beggar by the station: what would you do?

Usually the only people wanting to stop passers-by on Station Road are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they do not sit in the middle of the pavement (sidewalk) with a hat on the flagstone beside them.

Often these beggars mumble a few words, asking for change. They may look at the floor, but they do not turn away their heads. This young woman did. She looked like Ruby, but with more flesh on her bones than when I taught her; I wasn’t sure.

Deliberately, I slowed down. She twisted herself even further away from any eye contact. She did not want to speak to me. A few metres on, and I turned about. Again she was turned away from me, deliberately, in the opposite direction this time.

I felt obliged to respect this decision, whether or not it was Ruby there. But if it happens again …

Other ex-pupils have crossed the street to avoid me; some have even crossed the street to  say hello. But such friendliness is a precious gift that they can withhold or offer as they see fit. I felt obliged to respect Ruby’s decision. If it was Ruby. Or even someone else.

I shared this story with Christina, who commented: 

In my encounter with the poor man on the street, I don’t believe that I chose wisely because I made my decision based on all of the wrong reasons. I was thinking of myself more than of him. In your encounter with Ruby, however, you made your decision based on all of the right reasons, thinking of her and of what she wanted, whether she was Ruby or not. There is that saying, “Beggars can’t be choosers,” but you gave her the dignity of choice. You may have wished very much that she had chosen differently, so that you could help her in some way… I wonder if this is like God in his relationship with us. So many times, He wishes that we would look over to Him, to let Him into our lives. But sometimes we sense our nakedness too sharply and would rather hide our faces from Him. In His love, He allows us this choice, though it breaks His heart.
Pax Christi

 

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23 June: What became of …

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Simon had been a pupil at a school where I had once taught: that’s how we got talking about the disaffected lads I had worked with. Not that sunny Simon, whom I knew before I began teaching, ever had an ounce of disaffection in him in all those forty years.

But Luke did. He was ever ready to pick a fight with another child, then try to pin the blame on them when they gave him as much of a pasting as they could before they were stopped. One day he ran away on an outing to London, but was hiding in full view of the railway station cameras, so was soon rounded up.

‘Do you know what happened to these boys?’ asked Mary.

‘Luke’, I said, hesitating; ‘Luke met a teaching colleague years later, when he was a mental health nurse.

‘And then there was Peter, who broke my ribs, aged 11. He was found to have a severe wheat intolerance and was a changed boy when he cut it out of his diet. He completed secondary school at least.

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‘I was called over to a bench on a major railway station by a young man who introduced himself as Alan West – formerly known by two completely different names. “And this is Jill, we’re getting married soon. But I’m not telling my family. Jill’s my family now – and her family accept me.”‘

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While it’s good to share these positive stories, not all were doing so well when last I heard. Tony, son of a London prostitute, was moved very much against his will and our advice, from a foster family of a different complexion to one that nearer matched his own. He was soon in a secure unit, not allowed out of the new ‘home’ he was assigned by the court. An abuse victim who came to us at 12 was incarcerated at 18 for abusing other children. A lad who won my heart was murdered by his stepfather.

Please pray for them all; may the Good Shepherd seek each one out and bring him home.

We meet another prisoner tomorrow.

MMB

 

 

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May 30: P is for Portsmouth and car Parks

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This shows the Southsea end of Portsmouth from the Isle of Wight Ferry. I went to school behind those trees.

Genteel Southsea rather held its skirts away from the main city, I felt, a city that had not recovered from the Second World War and the subsequent reduction in British sea power. Once, on the way to the ferry, I took my family to sea the ugliest building in Britain, the brutalist Tricorn car park, a favourite suicide spot. Our big car park in Canterbury was not so ugly, except that it too attracted would-be suicides. Whatever the buildings’ style, they were places of great sadness; we are better off without them.

Of course getting rid of multi-storey car parks cannot take away people’s distress. But sometimes it falls to us to help, even if just to be there with them.

The rest of this post is from the Samaritans’ website. Worth reading for the odd moment when something feels not quite right.

MMB

How you can help

Suicidal feelings can be overwhelming, but they will pass.

How someone behaves in this brief window is as unique as the individual themselves. But there are signs you can look out for.

Signs someone may need help

  • Looking distant, withdrawn or upset
  • Standing alone or in an isolated spot
  • Staying on the platform for long periods of time/failing to catch trains that stop

Someone looking out of place or a feeling that ‘something isn’t quite right’. If you feel that way about someone, trust your instincts and try to help.

Approaching someone in need

We know that when a person is suicidal having someone to talk to them and listen to them, and showing that they are not alone, can encourage them to seek support. There is no evidence that talking to someone who could be at risk will ‘make things worse’.

A little small talk can be all it takes to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts and help start them on a journey to recovery. If you think that someone might need help, trust your instincts and strike up a conversation, with a comment about the weather for example. Life-saving questions used by rail staff to help people have included:

  • Do you need any help?
  • What’s your name?
  • It’s a warm evening isn’t it?
  • What train are you going to get?

So strike up a conversation if you feel comfortable and it’s safe to do so. Or tell a member of staff or call 999. Your involvement could help save someone’s live.

What you can do if the person needs further help

If you sense the person might need help after your initial approach, then you could ask directly if they’re ok.

You could introduce yourself and encourage them to talk if you can, and listen. You could then offer to take them to a safer environment where you’re able to get them the right support.

Tell a member of railway staff as soon as you can, or call 999.

Rail safety

We do not recommend you make any kind of physical contact. If the situation is an emergency, eg the person in on the track, tell station staff or call 999 immediately. Do not go onto the railway line under any circumstances.

Looking after yourself

Interventions make a huge and positive difference. It can be emotional and if you feel you would like some support after making an intervention or would like to talk to someone about it, you can speak to Samaritans by calling 116 123.

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28 June: Shared Table X: Food Banks

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More than a million 3 day emergency food parcels were given out by British food banks in 2015-2016. Read more about it here: what food banks do . This does not include parcels given directly by the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and other organisations.

I know people who have greatly benefited from this service. One mother often seems to have more teabags than she needs, but this means that she is able to share her surplus with others. That feels good!

Another interesting story was in The Observer on 4th December last. A Dublin organisation was able to establish deliveries of fresh food that a supermarket would have dumped to a women’s refuge. This abundance brought the women out of themselves and they began to share: to share food, to share a kitchen (I find that a real challenge!), to share recipes, to be good to each other.

Please pop a few cans into the collection baskets at your supermarket or church and help your local food bank keep going. Summertime, and the living will not be so easy when the children do not get their free school meals!

 

WT.

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26 May: The Builder’s Dog without the Ossyrians, II. Silence amid the Noise.

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From Will Turnstone’s personal blog.

Between 7.30 and 9.00 in the morning must be the noisiest time of day but most people have to filter out the noise, just to do what we have to. Young Abel often draws our attention to sirens, trains and loud machinery, but I did not need his advice this morning.

The Builder’s Dog is with us and needed his morning walk. Today he was sniffling round a shrub when I heard a woodpecker drumming somewhere nearby. Not that I saw him, but it’s a pleasure to hear him. Trying to place him – somewhere in the treetops – without binoculars was futile, but it made me aware of the din around me, even though I was some yards from the nearest road. The school playing field was being mown with a tractor and a mower; the main roads and inner ring road were still very busy, but a motorbike and ambulance stood out. There were trains and planes, and children winding down to go indoors for the morning.

But I could still hear the woodpecker. And the chaffinch and the blackcap … and the herring gulls and rooks overhead.

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Sometimes we must dive into whatever silence is around, even if no-one else can hear it, even if only for a moment. Oh, still small voice of calm.

But now it’s back to work! 1 Kings 19.12.

 

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23 May: B is for Blacklion, Brocagh and Belcoo

Most readers will not have heard of the twin villages, Belcoo to the North, Blacklion to the South, of a river bridge across the Irish border. The river joins the two Loughs, or Lakes MacNean. Once upon a time I was a student in Blacklion, and each week went to the village school at Brocagh, a good walk from the college, to give the youngsters a catechism lesson.

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Sometime around 1970 the little 2 classroom schools were closed down and a new school built in Glenfarne village. In 2011 I shared this photograph of the school on thepelicans.org.uk website, and it was from Belcoo that Olivia O’Dolan identified many of the children, helped by Mary Brady-Timoney, her sisters Kathleen Brady-Keaney and Bridget Brady-Fitzpatrick with Ben McHugh and the Clancy family. Olivia and her family live in the old station house seen at the top of this post. Life goes on; at times it’s almost as if the border did not exist. These children’s cousins will have lived north and south, and things have been so much better in recent years; pray that life doesn’t deteriorate post-Brexit.

Mrs McCormack, the head teacher, (far right) gave me a valuable lesson, thanks to Joe McHugh, down there in the front row, hand to his brow.

One week after Easter we had John’s story of the barbecue by the lake after the miraculous catch of fish, and Peter’s final declaration of faith. I thought the lesson went well. The children drew some remarkable pictures, but Mrs McCormack drew my attention to Joe’s in particular: come here now, Joe, what’s this in the corner? – It’s Saint Peter’s lorry, Miss, come to carry away the fish. I’d missed the lorry completely; I’d not interpreted the shapes he’d drawn in 20th Century terms.

What she knew, but I did not, was that Joe’s family had recently acquired a lorry which was Joe’s pride and joy, so of course St Peter would have had his lorry ready to take the fish to market. The story made sense to Joe, and had always made more sense to me as a consequence; thank you Joe, wherever you are.

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12 March, Human Will VIII: An Unexpected Reward for being less than 100% committed.

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I trust Sister Johanna will allow me to continue reflecting on human will from another angle. WT.

Litter-picking is one of those fatigues that children in school resent. It’s one thing to pick up your own litter, another when it comes to other people’s. I try not to be resentful when I do my turn around our locality – turning over scraps of paper, bottles and cardboard coffee cups, instead of stones on the beach. But that’s more difficult when it comes to cigarette ends. (GRRRR!)

I tell myself the parable about the son who didn’t want to do what his father asked, while the other just made promises. Well, the first one: ‘afterwards, being moved with repentance, he went’. (Matthew 21:29).

My repentance was less than 100%! But a little reward came my way one day just before Christmas. Shining in a ray of winter sun, a very early snowdrop.

And better, surely, to do the job with a degree of anger than not at all? I was doing what I would have done had I been 100% repentant – and the job got done.

WT.

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Faith, Science and Teenagers

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Another gem from the Vatican Observatory’s blog site. Constance L. Martin-Trembley teaches science to teenagers, and has to help her students with the challenges posed when science meets rigidly held beliefs in the literal truth of the Bible. She has panache! Follow the link to read her

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Musings

WT

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14 February: Mockery

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Just a few weeks after the children’s festival, a new academic year began at the University. During Freshers’ Week the newly-arrived keen students who have just survived Sixth Form pressures and A level exams, are encouraged to develop lively leisure activities alongside their chosen Degree courses. A Fresher’s Fair is a chance for all sorts of university clubs to win over a good number of students to this or that hobby. Here is one example, a Paintball shooting club. As seen here, human beings are presented as dividing into aggressive friends and unwelcome enemies. The idea of slaughtering an enemy is part of this so-called “game”. A mock human skull can be lifted up at the end to foster pride in the possibility of sneering (symbolically) at a corpse.

During the Vietnam War in the late Sixties and Early Seventies, some religious writers, both Buddhist and Christian, collaborated in calling for pacifist symbolism to be given a genuine hearing. The need for an agreed symbolism of non-violent resistance was what brought together the Jesuit Daniel Berrigan and the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Nhat Hanh wrote and spoke about resistance meaning “more than resistance against war. It is a resistance against all kinds of things that are like war. Because living in modern society one feels he cannot easily retain integrity, wholeness. One is robbed permanently of humanness, the capacity of being oneself… So perhaps, first of all, resistance means opposition to being invaded, occupied, assaulted, and destroyed by the system.”  It means refusing to join in all sorts of mockery, even in play, that treats others as disposable rubbish.  [See their co-authored book: The Raft is Not the Shore.]

 

Chris D.

Jan. 2017.

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11 January: Open Heart, Open Mind II: A Nasty Piece of Work.

 

 

Traveler

No apologies if I’ve told this story before; but it is good to start the year with an open heart and open mind which I certainly needed to one year.

This was a school year and I was starting a new job. My superior was running through the register of ‘my’ form of 16 year olds, jabbing a sharp-nailed index finger at Cormac’s name: ‘Watch him, he’s a nasty piece of work.’

I wished I’d not heard those words but tried to keep an open mind. Cormac turned out to be a bit of a bully, something of a leader, a lunchtime absconder and a smoker. To deal with the last problem first, I kept a tube of extra strong mints in my pocket. He could not smell his after-lunch breath, but if I could others would. The other little difficulties were alleviated a little when he and his fellow smoker were referred to me for a misdemeanour even I could not ignore, so detention slips were duly written and handed out.

After lessons they appeared with strong evidence of their innocence – on this occasion. ‘I could count this against all the times you should have had after school detention but didn’t, or I could just rip them up,’ I said. Actions speak louder than words, except for the next word: Sorry.

I went off sick soon after that. When I struggled back it was Cormac who stood up in form period and said, ‘Sir, you should not be here. Go home.’ He was right. I am ever grateful for the solidarity he showed that day.

WT

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