Growing up I didn’t see a lot of my Dad. It was not a sob story type affair, just a product of circumstance. I got up in the morning with my Mam, we had breakfast together, I went to school. When I came home in the afternoon, Dad was in bed asleep. I’d see him for a half an hour in the evening, much later, and then he’d go off at about 9 o’clock. This happened for many years and was normal to me. It was only much later that I learned why we had a family routine that was different to that of most of my classmates: My Dad was a baker (and had been since he was 14) and he worked nights in roasting hot bakeries far from our house, slogging through the night, even at Christmas, to bake hundreds of loaves of beautiful, fresh bread to make sure other families woke up to a decent breakfast and good food. Of course, he always brought home a loaf to us and still to this day I remember the taste of the soda bread he would leave on the counter for us when he crept in, trying not to wake us at 3 or 4 in the morning.
This week in Ireland there has been much talk of the work that is done by the Capuchin Day Centre, what is commonly known as a soup kitchen, that helps feed those who need a little extra help. It brought to mind one of the most astonishing stories I have ever heard.
A few years ago, I met a man who was directly involved with a similar inner city Dublin organisation that provided food to those in need of it. It was around the time of the beginning of the Ireland’s post-tiger difficulties, and this man told me of a family who would come in every day; father, mother and two small kids. The kids were in a school nearby and the father would pick them up and bring them to the kitchen at lunchtime. They would come to the bar with their trays in hand, get their hot lunch and the father would always head the line. When he got to the end, he would hand one of the volunteers a note or some coins, and they would squat down behind the counter, shuffle around and hand him back the exact money he gave them, but in the eyes of his children they were having a wonderful, special lunch with their parents, a treat out of a mundane day at school.
I never forgot that story, and I’ve never forgotten that man. I don’t know who he is but I think of him often, and his family, and hope and pray they are in a better situation now. I’m sure they are. If someone is prepared to carry out such a protective act every single day, then those children are very lucky indeed.
There are always people in the background, making sure you are alright and that you really don’t have to cope with the worst of what is going on. I wonder how many we never even know about?
To donate to the amazing work done by the Capuchin Day Centre, have a look here: http://homeless.ie/Capuchin_Day_Centre_2013/Capuchin_Day_Centre_for_Homeless_People.html