Thursday, May 21, 2020

May 21: How Much I Owed to Him, Unexpected Acts of Kindness, Lean Months of Summer

Merton received some unexpected help . . .

As time went on, I was to get into fierce arguments with the football captain on this subject, but that day was yet to come.  As long as I was among the fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds in Hodge Wing, I had to mind my behavior with the lords of the school, or at least in their presence.  We were disciplined by the constant fear of one of those pompous and ceremonious sessions of bullying, arranged with ritualistic formality, when a dozen or so culprits were summoned into one of the hollows around Brooke hill, or up the Braunston road, and beaten with sticks, and made to sing foolish songs and to hear themselves upbraided for their moral and social defects.

When I got into the sixth form, which I did after a year, I came more directly under the influence and guidance of the new Headmaster, F. C. Doherty.  He was a young man for a Headmaster, about forty, tall, with a great head of black hair, a tremendous smoker of cigarettes, and a lover of Plato.  Because of the cigarettes, he used to like to give his class in his own study, when he decently could, for there he could smoke one after another, while in the classrooms he could not smoke at all.

He was a broad-minded man, and I never realized how much I owed to him until I left Oakham.  If it had not been for him, I would probably have spent years in the fifth form trying to pass the School Certificate in mathematics.  He saw that I could far easier pass the Higher Certificate, specializing in French and Latin where, although the examination in these subjects would be very hard, there would be not maths.  And the Higher Certificate meant far more than the other.  It was he who began, from the start, to prepare me for the university, getting me to aim at a Cambridge scholarship.  And it was he who let me follow the bend of my own mind, for Modern Languages and Literature, although that meant that I spent much of my time studying alone in the library, since there was no real "Modern" course at Oakham at the time.

Merton's respect and gratitude for Headmaster Doherty is in retrospect, as he notes.  He simply doesn't recognize the kindness of the man until years later, after he has left the school.  Terrible at math, Merton is instead allowed to pursue his passions for modern languages and literature.  All because Doherty recognizes his true talents.

I think everyone can think of at least one person who has performed unrecognized acts of kindness that changed the course of their lives.  An uncle who teaches you how to rebuild a car engine.  A teacher who praised a poem you wrote.  A friend who convinced you to apply for a college scholarship.  Rarely do we get the opportunity to thank these people.  Acknowledge their kindness and encouragement.

Tonight, however, I am going to acknowledge an unexpected act of kindness in my life.  Late this afternoon, right after I returned from my afternoon walk, I heard someone knocking on my front door.  I was surprised.  Since the pandemic began, surprise solicitations or visitors have been non-existent. 

My wife and I looked through the window of our inside door and saw one of my best friends there, wearing a mask and gloves.  I opened the door and stepped out onto my front porch.  My friend waved at me.  I opened my front door.

"I have something for you guys," she said.  She went to the back of her vehicle and brought out a box of groceries and gallon of milk.  She placed them on the sidewalk before our front steps.  Inside the box was potatoes and a loaf of bread and chips and cupcakes and a full watermelon, among other things.

I was not surprised by my friend's kindness.  She has helped me through a lot of hard times in my life.  I was surprised by this particular act of charity, which was so needed right now.  My salary from university contingent teaching has ended, so money quickly becomes tight this time of year.  It is even tighter due to the pandemic because we haven't been able to get our taxes filed until this week.  So, no tax return cushion, which usually helps us through the end of July, if we are careful.  My wife has been unemployed since November, and the pandemic has affected income from some of my other jobs, as well. 

Long story short:  we have entered the lean months of summer early this year.  And that means that my worry has started earlier, as well.

So my friend with her unexpected act of kindness was a miracle today.  A reminder that God is looking out for me and my family.

And for that, Saint Marty gives thanks.

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