‘A monk when he is cloisterless
Is like to a fish that is waterless’
It doesn’t quite rhyme does it. But who am I to critique the author of one of the most important works of literature ever written?
Chaucer, in his Canterbury Tales, gives us a wonderful slice of medieval society as we meet his colourful characters. Speaking of…
I had an illuminating experience last week. I was invited to a meeting of minds. Hmm, I never imagined that the spaghetti of my mind would merit appraisal by others. I wasn’t wrong.
We met around a boardroom table in the Civic Hall. Some high-falluting bigwig from the Metropolitan District Council opened the meeting by explaining that he needed contributions from all levels of society. Hence our presence.
And what a motley crew we were. One, a Chinese Take-Away owner; another, the High School headmaster; an Asian cab driver; the Director of Parks; one nun, complete with full apparel; a very elderly, white haired gentleman and a Refuse Collector.
“It’s trash,” began Bigwig. “Domestic waste; fast food containers. The footpaths around our town are littered. Coke cans, cartons and bottles; sputum - everybody spits! Gum, dog excrement - I could go on. And now Fly Tipping has added to the list. We need to formulate a major clean-up plan and discuss preventive action for the future.”
Silence reigned. “Are there any thoughts on the matter?”
“Yes,” said Refuse Collector. “Get on with it.” Bigwig blanked him and looked hopefully around the room.
“Isn’t that your job, sir?” The elderly man addressed Refuse Collector.
“I’m paid for an eight hour shift,” he growled. “There’s enough trash around his take-away to gobble up my hours.” He pointed to Chinese man.
“Lots of bins, sir. Me provide. Customer chuck!”
“Chuck in my cab, more like,” argued Asian man. “Silly people, very drunk, eat fried lice then big puke.” The headmaster thumped the table,
“Could we keep some order and propriety, please?”
“That’s my job,” said Bigwig.
“Then do it,” hollered Trash Man. Director of Parks intervened.
“Our recreational spaces are utterly disgraceful; chock-full of doggy do and other unsavoury used products.”
“How about you rostering a local volunteer group to implement a clean-up plan?” Holy Sister was impolitely ignored.
Elderly man turned purple and secured his top denture. “I fought for Queen and country. I’ve paid my taxes all my life, AND I’M BEGGARED if I’ll be relegated to scoop-a-poop duties in my dotage.”
“No one would expect an old codger like you to bend your back,” chipped in Trash Man. “Nor the hapless God botherer who suggested it.” He ducked as elderly man’s airborne walking stick skirted his right ear. Headmaster leaped to his feet and pounded the table with his fist. Turning to Bigwig he sneered,
“Do you not understand the skill of chairing a meeting? Would you like me to take over?”
“Sit down and shut up!” Director of Parks addressed him directly. “If you could control the brats in your school, our parks and streets wouldn’t be in this mess.”
“Erm… Should I ask the Lord to preside over us?” Offered the nun.
A palpable hush descended. It was one of those light bulb moments. I heard seven frontal lobes ticking over. I sensed fourteen eyeballs, burning holes into my skull.
“Who’s he?” asked Trash Man. “Is he one of God Botherer’s flock?”
“I’ve never seen him before.” Holy Sister replied. I kept my head down, in the hope that somehow, they wouldn’t pursue the matter.
“Who are you boy?” He wasn’t letting up. “You don’t talk much. Huh? Hey Bigwig, you invited him, so who is he?”
“Oh, um, he’s Gregory and he’s doing five hundred hours Community Service.” I squirmed and picked my fingers under the table, passionately trusting in his obligation to confidentiality. He surely wouldn’t divulge my heinous crime.
“He’s been found guilty on six counts of dropping litter on the streets, three of allowing his dog to foul the green spaces, and one of fly-tipping in the lake.”
“But I’m not a hooligan,” I squeaked. “Just a tad careless and untidy, maybe? Duh!”
Meeting Chaucer’s pilgrims makes the reader realise that the heart and soul of mankind have not changed at all over the centuries.
But meeting Jesus changes hearts and minds. Black, white or multi-coloured; odd bods and misfits; all are invited. With every culpable thought and deed forgiven, God’s gift of life is free at the point of contact. What’s to lose?
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