Based on a true story.
The rules were simple. Help families in crisis. Spend the money wisely and treat people with dignity.
$27,000 was a lot of money.
Senior Constable Beverly Munro was not a happy policewoman.
“If you really want to help people stop giving them cash.” She spoke with a hardness that came from years of disappointment.
“My predecessor gave everyone $40,” I meekly defended myself.
“Do you see that man?” I followed her gaze through the window and across the road to a figure sitting in the park. “He sells little bags of powder for $40 a pop,” she almost snarled.
“So what should I do?”
The policewoman was quick to reply.
“Groceries,” she said. “Then at least their kids will get fed.”
For the next week business was slow as the news spread that the days of easy cash were over. That was until Friday rolled around.
“Can I see you, Rev?”
The young lady appeared to be unsteady on her feet. Leena was a regular and her file was quite thick.
“Leena, are you alright?” She stumbled and for a moment and almost fell. “Let’s get you to a hospital,” I said taking her arm.
It would be another three hours before I realized the full impact of what had happened.
“Is that Pastor Harcourt?”
I had caught the phone on its last ring.
“Yes, it is,” I said almost out of breath.
“This is Doctor Jones.”
The greeting caught me by surprise. Why would the hospital be ringing me?
“Yes Doctor Jones. What can I do for you?”
The medic took a deep breath before he spoke.
“Your client has a fractured skull.” There was a hint of anger in his voice.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” I stuttered.
“Your client informs us there are two children in her care.” Doctor Jones continued. “We were wondering if you could check on them for us.”
My records revealed Leena Merrett lived in the projects with her de facto partner. The front door had been kicked in and from the corridor I could hear two children crying with fear.
Everything in their flat was broken. The remains of a television were scattered across the living room and large holes had been kicked in the walls. Bret Lees leaned against a wall trying to disguise his discomfort. One eye was swollen shut and he appeared to be nursing broken ribs.
“Are you alright?”
“Where’s Leena?” he replied desperately.
It took time. But eventually Bret opened up. He owed money for drugs and when he couldn’t pay things had turned ugly.
“What sort of people can do this?” I wondered.
It would be another two weeks before I saw Bret and Leena again.
I looked up to see the smiling face of our area superintendent.
“Greg! What a pleasant surprise.”
Greg Williams and I had been at seminary together.
“I’ve heard some good things about the Emergency Relief Grant,” he came straight to the point. “So I thought I would see it for myself.”
Just then I heard a familiar cry.
Through my office window I could see the familiar faces of Bret and Leena. They were pushing a shopping trolley laden with groceries and children.
“Hi guys,” I smiled sadly.
“You rule, brother.”
The salutation made me smile.
“We are fighting evil with food vouchers and words,” I said with a touch of sarcasm.
Greg Williams grunted acknowledgement.
“I know,” he spoke softly.
I watched as the young couple turned the corner and disappeared from view. Suddenly I noticed my hands were shaking as I fought back tears.
“We live such sheltered lives,” I choked on the words.
“Yes we do.” My friend was good at listening.
“How did you do it for so many years?” I asked.
My superintendent thought about the question before he answered it.
“The secret is not to look into the abyss,” he said seriously. “A lot of guys just end up falling in.”
It sounded like good advice.
“Keep your eyes on Jesus,” he said smiling. “And remember, the battle belongs to the Lord.”
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