I have a book, given to me by a friend who had no need of it. It’s a collection of daily readings from the writings of Richard Rohr. I don’t read it everyday. It’s moved to the kitchen shelf from the bedside table, so that I might read it more regularly. I don’t want to rush it.
But I picked it up this morning. Rohr wrote about how we weigh up decisions or actions in terms of it will affect us. We question what will this mean to me? He says because we are driven by our egos. When we allow ourselves to be open, we are who we can be. We become who we are.
We cleared our mum’s house recently after its sale. I have a box of medals, photos and there was a letter, posted to an address when I was a student in 1981 or 2. It has a Spanish stamp. Who’s it from? I started reading from the top. There were three sheets of notepaper, two letters. The first one described coming home for Christmas and New Year, getting used to English beer and winter football games watching Wolves. One of our mates got married without telling anyone. I’d forgotten that.
Now, he’s back in Spain and scored two goals for his team. ‘Not bad for a defensive midfield player’, he writes. I knew who it was and smiled. JD. He played at the back. I was the striker in our 5-a-side team, which won the Wolves Poly Cup in our second year – my proudest sporting moment ever.
The next letter started off in a similar vein. It mentioned beer and chips and Manchester…Jim! It has to be Jim, the goalie, writing about choices, whether to stay in Spain or come back to England. I wondered where they were now.
I was struck by the tone of the letters, filled with warmth and humour and friendship. How had I missed this at the time? They wrote about meeting up again in the future and looking ahead to all that life has to offer. Back then, I’d kept a distance. I’d always had a feeling of being slightly out of the group, on the edges there. From the tone of the letters, I read clearly that they felt I was right in it. How strangely we see things? How wrong can we be? I’ve not kept in touch. I wonder where they are now. What happened to them? I’d like to know…is it too late?
Walking home Saturday lunchtime, I paused to watch a game of football through the railings. Only then did I notice the word ‘Ackworth’ on the back of a sweatshirt on one of the substitutes. I called over, ‘Hello! Ackworth..? Yorkshire..? The Quaker school…’ They said yes, a bit glumly, I thought. ‘And I’m a Quaker!’ I called out. ‘How are you getting on? Are you Yellows or Stripes?’ ‘We’re Y ellows and we’re not doing too well.’ ‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘There’s still time. You’re on Quaker time. That means you always have hope!’ And they burst out laughing. I was smiling too and walked on. When I looked back, they were still laughing.
We all have stories.
Rohr, Richard, On the Threshold of Transformation, Daily Meditation for Men, (2010), LoyolaPress.