RULES ARE IMPORTANT – BUT PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT? SOMETIMES RULES HAVE TO BE BENT OR BROKEN TO HELP PEOPLE.
I have always lived my life and ministry by the above maxim.
One pre Christmas day some years ago I was in Dublin for the annual News of the World Christmas party which was always a posh boozy affair.
The next day at lunch time I was driving through Dublin and I noticed a young man dressed in black standing at a traffic lights with a black bag at his feet and holding a sign which read “HOMELESS PLEASE HELP”.
I reached my hand into my pocket and as I drove past put a handful of coins into his outstretched hand. He said, in a strange English dialect “GOD BLESS YE SIR”.
It startled me. It sounded like David Copperfield. I drove back around and asked to speak to him. He said he would not get into my car. I told him I had not asked him to do that. We had a conversation through the window and he told me his story.
He was from the Peak District in England and was in trouble with the police there over drug taking. He had left his family and girlfriend and had absconded to Dublin where he had become dependant on Heroin.
We talked a while. I gave him £40 and arranged to write to him at a convenience address he had. He was sleeping on the street.
A few weeks later I was back in Dublin and went looking for him on Grafton Street. I saw a load of cardboard boxes and a blanket in a doorway and had an intuition he was under it. He was.
I brought him for a Big Mac and during the meal he cried and asked me to help him beat the heroin addiction. Of course, I agreed. I left him with a time to meet him later and drove around the drug rehabilitation centres in Dublin. They all had a six months waiting list.
I decided that if I could get the Methadone I would detox him myself at my home.
I went back around the rehab centres again and asked them for three weeks Methadone.
As it was a strictly controlled drug they refused.
But Pat, as always, was determined not be beaten, So, dressed in my clericals I hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take me to where all the drug dealers hang out. The driver was surprised but did as I asked. Eventually I was introduced to a Methadone supplier and agreed to meet him the next morning for three weeks supply for something like £100.
I did not sleep well that night thinking that the dealer might give me impure Methadone that would make my new friend sick or kill him and land me in prison for supplying controlled drugs, grievous bodily harm or manslaughter.
So, in the morning at 8 am I telephoned RTE and asked to be put through to the Marian Finnucane Programme and asked her if she would allow me to appeal on her show for proper Methadone. She was shocked but agreed. Within ten minutes of my appeal I had a call from a drug counsellor in Galway who agreed to help me by putting three weeks supply of Methadone on the Galway Belfast bus. My fiend and I collected it in Belfast and with the help of a doctor friend of mine I detoxed my friend over three weeks.
He did extremely well, began to eat properly and eventually I got him a job in Larne. I contacted the English police and told them what he had achieved and they promised him a compassionate meeting on his return.
After three months in Larne he returned to England and was reunited with his family and girlfriend. The police kept their word.
Some months later I was in my upstairs sitting room and heard my mother answer the doorbell. She was present during his detox too.
A few minutes later my friend, the former addict walked into my sitting room. He looked well and glowing and was wearing a business suit. He had got a job as a stock taker for BP fuels and he was on business in Belfast.
He was carrying a bottle of my favourite tipple and with tears in his eyes said: “I am here to thank you for saving my life”.
Then it was my turn to have tears.
That whole story is at one level about me and my friend, but in my eyes it is a story of the intervention of God in a life on its way to tragedy.
Of course I understand and respect our atheist readers who will say it an act of human kindness by one human being to another and had nothing to do with God.
I believe that my friend was a child of God and God wanted to help him and He simply used me in spite of all my sins and failings and even used a red top newspaper to get me to the right place at the right time. Imaging that – God using a newspaper in spite of Page 3.
On this Sunday morning I say “Glory be to God”.
THE TOUCH OF THE MASTER’S HAND
Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
“Who starts the bidding for me?”
“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
“Two dollars, who makes it three?”
“Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,”
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.
The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its’ bow.
“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.
The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
“We just don’t understand.”
“What changed its’ worth?”
Swift came the reply.
“The Touch of the Masters Hand.”
“And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and bruised with hardship
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.
But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters’ Hand.
– Myra Brooks Welch