Hardly through the door, there was a buzz from the intercom. Going out to open the gates, I met a Traveller I have known for a decade. Pale and in discomfort from a persistent cough, he looked unwell and unkempt.
“How are things?”
“Not so good. I had the flu and now the chest is bad. I went to the doctor, but the antibiotics made me worse. Bad stomach”.
“You allergic to penicillin?”
“I am. He give me something else. But it was just as bad”.
“You remember I said I had the parking ticket”.
I did. He had parked on double yellow lines in a country town to get chips for he and his son. A Garda car had come along and he had been ticketed while he was in the chip shop.
“I went to the court about it and didn’t understand what was going on. I was told to go to the clerk and he told me I had been fined €150”.
I wondered where the District Court judge thought the money would come from; it’s astonishing how the full force of the law can be applied to parking offences and not to banking.
“How are the family?”
“We had a row and she and the family went off with the car. She’s back now but says I’m out of the house”.
“Where are you staying?”
“My uncle has lent me a van. That’s why I was calling. You wouldn’t know anyone that has an old mattress they’re throwing out. I have a couple of old blankets, but was looking for a single mattress. In the summer time, I’d get one from a skip. I try the shops sometimes. When the furniture places sell beds and take the old ones away. They’re glad to get rid of the mattresses”.
I refrained from asking where he left the old mattresses when he had finished with them
I didn’t know who might have a mattress, but suggested he might try a local shop. I gave him money to get something to eat and he went on his way in his uncle’s van.
Spending three days at a clergy conference is no help whatsoever in doing real stuff.
What is the theological response to a Traveller family that just staggers from crisis to crisis? What is the theological response to a police force that seems rigorous in its treatment of poor people? What is the theological response to judges who seem to apply different rules according to social class?
I could have kept the cost of the conference and sent it to the District Court; it might have been a more useful thing to do.