|THE ENTRANCE TO TOOWONG RAILWAY STATION|
I don't necessarily mean the thing you would least want to be found out or made known. It might be one and the same thing, but it is not necessarily so. I can, and I want to share it with you, not by way of Confession for thank God, that has been done once and for all sacramentally. But, having reflected on it carefully over time- for I still recall it vividly and with deep regret- I believe it might be useful for others to think about, as they go about their lives.
It was a Winter's evening around 7.00 p.m. and I was headed out of TOOWONG Station in suburban Brisbane to catch a Bus to my home 25 minutes further West.
Following the failure of our book distribution business and the subsequent loss of our family home, we were living in a nice rented house on the outer Western reaches of the suburbs. To supplement our Aged Pension income which barely covered essentials and left us struggling with residual debts , I had, at age 68 or so, taken a job driving a Dry Cleaning delivery van. This, I came to realise was the second lowest rung on the employment ladder - the lowest being the slavery of immigrant workers in the Dry Cleaning plant - but that is another story. It was very stressful work, involving 7.30 a.m. starts and uncertain finishing hours between 5.30 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. depending on whether or not certain distant clients called for service. The vans were not air-conditioned ,and with their underfoor engines beside the driver, they were extremely hot and noisy during the warm ,sunny Brisbane days. There was no break for lunch other than 5 minutes to wolf down a sandwich and a cup of coffee and then off again on one of 5 round trip runs each day with occasional extra jobs thrown in. By the end of the day I was frazzled , by the end of the week, wrecked.
It had been a typical hard day, but one of the busier ones which is why I was so late. Usually I was able to drive home in the van, but on this day it must have been undergoing service - it had already racked up several hundred thousand kilometres and needed a lot of attention - the engine oil consumption was very heavy.
So here I was desperate to get home, still at least half an hour away, knowing that my poor wife would be anxious about keeping the Dinner in good condition. I was thinking about finances , I had enough for bus fares for to-night and tomorrow morning, and I already had my train ticket. Pay Day was Friday and this was Wednesday so it would be a narrow scrape, but I could make it. It was always a brisk walk at speed up the escalator from the Platform along the concourse to the steps down to the busy Moggill Road and over to the Bus Stop outside the Royal Exchange Hotel a major local landmark. As I paced along the concourse I heard a voice call "Excuse me Sir?....Could you help me?" I checked my pace,paused and turned to the right where he sat on the metal bench chair - my instinctive reaction was "He's after money and I can barely look after myself and my wife!"I brusquely said "No!"and only as I turned my eyes back to head off , did I notice he had tears in his eyes, He was about 35, neatly dressed - he might have been a clerk in any respectable office anywhere.
I hurried off to the Bus Stop and even there briefly considered going back, but I didn't, the Bus would be along soon , I could not give him any money......
But the polite, educated manner of address, the neat dress and above all...the tears have continued to come back to me. What would it have cost to stop, sit by him and talk about his distress? To offer advice, guidance, some words of comfort. "As long as you do it to these, the least of My brethren, you do it to Me."( Matt 25:40 )
I have come to realise that , in effect, I had refused aid to Christ Himself in need.It is a terrible thought, but we have His word for it.
I thank God for the inestimable gift of the Sacrament of Penance and Absolution from my sin. And I repeatedly pray that God might help that poor young man and his family and make good whatever the need was that the poor fellow felt.
I am compelled to maintain that prayer, for who can tell what ripple effects my failure to offer some comfort might have had? Likewise, we should never fail to consider what beneficial effects might flow from our positive intervention where aid is needed.
My fault was compounded out of stress, self-pity, tension, rash judgement and haste. Yet he had chosen me out of the dozens passing by, and I failed the test. I let him/Him down.What gnaws away at me is that I,did it, with all my attention to Our Lord's teachings and matters of Theology and Liturgy and all, I did it!
How easily we can sit back listening to readings from Sacred Scripture, and in our minds be nodding away : "Yes, yes, that's right! "or "How could you have said that Peter.. so typical of you." But the test can come upon us when we are least prepared and delivering the right response is a sacred duty, so we need to be ready to meet Our Lord in our needy brethren at any time.