Christmas with a big difference

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I READ Fr. Raglan Hay-Will’s heart-warming New Year message about swapping the traditional Christmas turkey for a fry-up!

I may have met Raymond on two occasions at the back of the church last December.

On the first occasion I heard a low voice with an eloquent appeal “to spare some money for the poor” and turned to see a big man with a rucksack sitting on a chair behind me. I said that I hadn’t any money .

“Knock on the door of the priest’s house. They’ll give you a cup of tea and a sandwich.”

“Do you think I’m stupid?” he replied, getting up and stalking off with his rucksack.

The second occasion, it was the same place, at Midnight Mass.

I took his hand at the sign of peace, and thought his presence was something to do with Eastbourne’s chapel surfing set up. Later, I couldn’t quite believe it.

A woman started to chide him about his intention to smoke a cigarette and it became a bewildering scene with appeals for assistance, threats to call the police, answering back and a menacing angry fist motioning towards her, and a bag and coke bottle rather bravely picked up and dropped in the church porch outside.

A man engaged him in conversation and persuaded him outside the door.

Feeling confused, I decide to leave and say something.

I overheard “...picking on me.” and said,“Nobody’s picking on you. I have just made the sign of peace with you and now you are causing a disturbance. All we ask is, that you respect the church.”

I asked his name but he was in no mood to say.

I left, hoping that those few words will sink in, and pretty glad to cling Scrooge-like to some bedposts!

I’d had my nightmare and good deed wrapped up together in one big Christmas present.

ANDREW SOMERVILLE

Upperton Gardens