Big World Small Boat

Private Diary of A Priest. OK, so we're not all angels...Everyone needs a place to get things off their chest! And yes, I do talk to God about it all! Even He has a sense of humour! Want proof? Well, he made me, didn't He? Oh, one last thought-If you don't like what I've written, please keep in mind - it's MY diary. Go write your own!

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Location: England, United Kingdom

I've been serving children in crisis for over twenty five years. My goals are not to raise money, but to find organisations and individuals who can help change lives! What may be outdated equipment for you could change the life of a child in Eastern Europe! To learn more please visit our site at:


Their New 'Life'

I arrived early this morning to take the woman (I’m going to call her ‘Gwen’), and her children to collect their emergency Social Services funds. Again, I didn’t fully know what to expect. I assumed she would be given some cash to take with her, but she wasn’t. Instead she was given something that resembled a postal order, which we then had to take to the post office for her to cash. It was a total of £93.50! Incredible!

I listened intently to the Social Service clerk explain that a cheque would be sent to Gwen at the B&B. They couldn’t tell yet how much it would be. I had to keep asking the woman to repeat what she was saying because I wanted Gwen to first hear what was being said, but it was nearly impossible for me to hear the clerk through the holes drilled through the thick Perspex window. It was a demeaning experience.

I had picked up some more milk, cereal and bananas. But I had forgotten about them when I arrived at the B&B. They were still in the boot of the car. I had the impression that the children had not eaten this morning. As we drove back to the B&B I decided to stop at the McDonald’s near the seafront. I absolutely loathe McDonald’s, but it had a ‘play’ area and I wanted to have a moment to speak with Gwen. I couldn’t just take her back to the B&B and forget about them.

The children, (I’ll call them Lisa and Laura), were delighted. Breakfast wasn’t on offer any more. But I asked Gwen if it were okay for me to get them happy meals after they played for a bit. She just nodded. I don’t think she was accustomed to people offering her any choices.

I asked Gwen whether she had any plans as to what she would do now. She hadn’t a clue. She said she missed her friends up north. I asked if she had anyone she could stay with closer to where she had come from. Gwen more or less babbled about several people, as if I knew them, but from what I gathered, the answer was no. I repeated what the Social Services lady had said to us. After her case was reviewed, there would be steps to find more permanent housing for them. She looked at me and said ‘But I hadn't got no furniture or nothing like that.’

I told her I understood, but we’d take first steps first. I tried to speak in the colloquial ‘we’ in hopes that she wouldn’t feel so alone in the thought process. I also noticed for the first time that she has a slight shake to her arm. I couldn’t tell whether it was from nerves or some ailment. But it reminded me of what I wanted to talk about.

I suggested that ‘we’ get her and the children registered with a local GP immediately. And I mentioned that we should enquire about getting Laura into a school. I knew that considering what we had experienced with Social Services, they could end up living anywhere, but I still felt it better to give Laura some activity and a sense of normality…whatever normality means in such a situation. I asked whether Laura had been attending a school where they lived before. Gwen said she hadn’t. Nor had she attended any nursery or day care programmes.

The three of them ate chicken happy meals. I bought milk and orange juice for the children and coffee for Gwen. I also bought a cup of coffee for myself but once I set it down on the table I realised that I really didn't want it.

I was now more in a position to observe the children. Lisa is 2 ‘and a few,’ as if her mother couldn’t precisely recall when she was born. Laura will turn 6 in June. Both of them look pale, under nourished, and exhausted. My guess was that they hadn’t had a bath since arriving at the B&B. I asked Gwen how the accommodation was. She said it was ‘nice.’ I asked if she had everything she needed, such as ‘soap, flannels, shampoo, etc,’ (knowing that I had bought some soap and shampoo the day before.) ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘We have all we need.’

I took them back to the B&B. I’ve told Gwen that I’ll stop by on Saturday afternoon and I gave her a card with my telephone number. I told her to ring me if she had any concerns about anything.

On the way home I stopped to speak with the Headteacher at the local Church school. They had no placements available and the Headteacher suggested that I go to the nearby state school. Perhaps there will be some developments before Saturday. If not, I’ll visit the other school on Monday. It’s just a matter of balancing time. I have a full dance card tomorrow, including hospital visits and a funeral.

I’ve been reflecting over why I couldn’t visualise these children last night. I think I understand why now.

Whenever I travel to Eastern Europe I have a moment where I leave ‘our world’ behind me. My pace alters slightly, my speech patterns slow and my awareness changes, so that I look for different things and I look at things differently. If you have worked abroad as a volunteer or in a foreign ministry, you will probably understand what I mean.

When I come home, it is essential that I have a break–period where I’m allowed to sit in silence. It can’t be while I’m travelling. I need to be at home, or in a church, or a field, but I need to be alone–in silence. And I take that time to reflect, pray, and emotionally set all I’ve seen and touched and experienced aside for a moment. Sometimes I even find myself speaking aloud, saying ‘ I’m home now.’ There’s comfort in that word "Home."

I think what happened with Lisa and Laura is that I saw too much of what I travel thousands of miles to see. And it disturbed me greatly. When I return home there are many images I must remove from the forefront of my memory. I must. And part of that process is by not allowing myself to look too deeply into the eyes of the children I serve. Of course I communicate with them, love them, and of course I look them in the eye, but there’s a point where you ‘absorb’ them. And when that happens they capture a part of your soul. And to serve many, you simply cannot focus only on one.

I must stop writing for a moment.

When The Church Sins

Who Are We Forgetting?

Look Both Ways

Try a Little Dog in Your Life!


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Father Bill. Grace and I wanted to say how lovely and touching the funeral was for little Lewis and Taylor. I dont think we realised how intense the security was going to be and now understand why you insisted on us all having invitation cards. I know ours were checked by the police twice even before we got to the sanctuary. Your sermon was the most touching thing we have ever heard. At home we saw you on the news speaking about the children. Grace began to cry again when the BBC read some of your sermon. Its just sad that Stewart was not able to be there to say goodbye to his children. Thank you for all you did. Grace and Arthur Blackford.


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