I sat beside a man who was home on holidays from Australia at a function in north Donegal a few years back. He has been gone a long time, but the years have been kind to him in that he has a full head of hair, has stayed slim and, of course, had a tan from living in a place where the sun shines most days of the year.
I didn’t feel in the least bit jealous. Honest! But I’m only scene-setting for you.
A scene from a film
As we sat and chatted, a very attractive woman went by, stopped and came over and asked, ‘Jimmy? Jimmy Byrne? Is it you?” (That’s not his real name but for the sake of this article that’s the name I’m using.)
Anyway, he was ‘Jimmy Byrne’ and the two of them sat and chatted for about ten minutes and off she went.
I didn’t know the woman from Adam and I wouldn’t have thought anything more about that little conversation but for the fact that a couple hours later a very strange thing happened.
Towards the end of the evening the same woman came out of the function room to where we were sitting in the hotel lobby and declared in a very quiet voice: ‘”Jimmy, I loved you as a girl, and I think I have always loved you. Bit late in the day now, isn’t it?”
She then leaned over, kissed him, and went out the door without looking back.
All these years later I still think it was like a scene from a film except it wasn’t.
Thirteen Reasons Why
I, of course, being so nosey, asked Jimmy at the time ‘what was that all about?’ but other than saying they had gone out together as teenagers that was it. He never spoke of it again either. He left for Melbourne a few days later and I presume I’ll never know the full story.
I am currently reading a book ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ and it tells of how our lives impact on others, often without us being aware of it.
The book tells of Clay Jensen coming home to find a strange package with his name on it outside his door. Inside the package are tape recordings by Hannah Baker- his classmate and first love –who committed suicide a couple of weeks earlier.
In the tapes Hannah explains there are 13 reasons why she killed herself. Clay is one of them, and if he listens to the tapes he’ll find out why.
The odd thing is Clay can’t remember doing anything. (There’s a clue in that sentence.)
I won’t spoil the story but I’ll give a small flavour of how it unfolds. Hannah is new in an American town and is trying to find her feet. In September she starts at the local High School and because she is good looking she attracts a lot of male attention.
One boy gets a date with her but because it doesn’t go well to big himself up to his friends he suggests that Hannah was more generous with her favours than was actually the case.
So she has now got an undeserved reputation that results in altered perceptions of her amongst her new classmates. It effects – and affects – how they treat her. Reason One.
Reason Two soon follows. As a joke, another student sends around the class a ‘who’s hot –who’s not’ list and Hannah has ‘the best ass’.
Hannah finds out the guy behind it was being vindictive; he wanted to put a girl who had turned him down on the ‘who’s not hot’ side of the page. Hannah was not the intended target but was collateral damage.
We don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life
The author of ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ makes the point that we don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life so sometimes something small, often seemingly innocuous, can become part of a bigger jigsaw that when the pieces fit together do real damage. Small things, as Albert Reynolds once pointed out, can really trip you up.
So this week's homily is: Isn’t it disgraceful that someone who has worked all their lives has to sign on at the dole office before they can get a pension?
It might be a small thing but for some folks it is deeply insulting and upsetting, making it seem that they are looking for a handout not getting what they are legitimately entitled to.
To them it's humiliating. Our public representatives sure as hell don’t have to do it to get their pensions.
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