The sun poured through the stained glass window, painting the stone floor of the church with dancing colours of rainbow hues. From where she was sitting, just a few rows from the very front, Eileen she smell the scent of apples from the display at the front of the church. The harvest festival was always her favourite event on the church calendar. In front of her she could see the bobbing heads of the children from the primary school, curiously looking at the solemn statues and gazing up at the lofty vaults of the ceiling.
She remembered the first time she had been sitting in the front row, many years ago, her eyes wide like saucers. It hadn't been the church building that thrilled her, but the display of fresh fruits and vegetables decorating the front of the altar.
At the age of seven, Eileen and her brother Peter had been evacuated from war ravaged London. Instead of buildings hugging close together with barely lit alley ways disappearing into the darkness, Eileen was faced with wide open spaces. Cornfields rippling deep yellow, rustling in the light breeze stretched in long rolling fields. The sound of buses and trams rattling up and down the main streets was replaced by sheep bleating in buttercup meadows and the noisy cries of crows building nests in tall swaying trees.
With so much sky above her head, she felt it's crushing weight. So much clean and fresh air pushed through her mouth and filled her lungs almost suffocating her. She longed for the familiar landscape of London. Here in the country she was far from the enemy littering the skies with screaming bombs, away from wailing sirens that split your skull and the dark dry bomb shelters where people huddled together, comforting one another with snatches of songs and nervous laughter.
At school, Eileen had been treated like the enemy. Her clothes were different. The way she spoke was different. She would find herself alone in the centre of a hostile mob, the other children, circling around her, like Indians in a western movie, pointing fingers, sticking out tongues and pulling her hair.
Eileen loved the farm where she and her brother lodged. She loved the dogs nipping at her heels as she came through the gate, and the bickering of the hens in the yard. After snack of freshly baked bread with a thick wedge of cheese, and a tin cup filled with creamy white milk, Eileen changed out of her good school clothes. She tumbled down the stairs eager to be doing her chores.
She loved to feel the soil of the garden running through her fingers. Eileen spent patient hours, hunting for weeds among the tidy rows and tenaciously pulling them out. She chattered to the young green shoots, spilling out her frustrations of the playground bullying, letting her tears fall. The plants thrusted their tall stems towards her, their green leaves caressing her face.
Weeks later the farmer's wife was sorting out the best of the fruit for the harvest festival.
"I don't see why we have to give anything to God." said Eileen.
"It's our way of saying thanks" replied the farmer's wife.
"Thanks…"snorted Eileen, "For what? My dad is out there. He could be bleeding and hurt or lost and alone. He could even be dead, shot by a man with a gun. My mum… she is somewhere in London, in a factory making bits for tanks. A bomb could fall. Why should I give God anything when he stands by and lets things happen?"
"Remember the seeds that you planted, Eileen? God also plants seeds - seeds of love in people's hearts. Remember the weeds? The enemy plants the weeds - hatred, fear, anger and greed. When people let the weeds grow they end up with things like wars. The seeds that God has planted don't get enough room to grow properly and bear fruit. When we thank God for the things He gives, He helps is to see the weeds of hatred and fear, our hearts become softer and it makes it easier for Him to pull them out."
Many miles away, on the blood soaked battle field in Northern France, Eileen's father, knee deep in brown seeping mud, carried an injured comrade on his shoulders.
"We'll soon be home, mate…just keep up yer pecker."
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