Four days after my son was attacked and left in a coma in a hospital over a hundred miles away, we had a major water leak. It was our second trip home to bathe, change and comfort the rest of the family, and the leak was the last thing we needed. I had all but screamed down the phone to get help, desperate to get away, back on the road south. By the time there was a knock on the door, I was wound as tight as a spring.
The plumber was huge, a veritable giant of a man… a Rastafarian, who seemed to fill the entire doorway. He came in and set to work lifting floorboards. It would not be a quick job. I sat at the computer, trying to update everyone who was seeking news…and there were many. Messages, prayers and kindness were pouring in from all over the world…and kindness is guaranteed to open the floodgates when you are overwrought. I burst into tears.
Looking up from his work, the plumber said that he did not wish to intrude, but… My then-partner gave him a terse run-down of events. My son was dying. The plumber sat back on his heels and thought for a moment. I cannot remember all of what he said, but I wrote later that day, “… he gave such words of loving comfort… and he is the only one who has said that I don’t need to pray for Nick, as he is closer to God now than I am and can follow His plan for himself, but that I should pray for the 17 year old who wielded the screwdriver, who has a lifetime and more to regret this. I won’t ask why he, of all the plumbers out there, was sent, but will just thank Those who sent him.”
Many had been asking about the perpetrator, some already seething with a desire for vengeance…or at least justice. The plumber was the first to speak of forgiveness.
Friends had been waiting for my anger… concerned that it did not come. I would get angry later, at bureaucracy, at incompetence, at laws inadequate for need… but I had no space for the anger of blame, no desire for revenge; I could only imagine how his mother must feel. My sons were suffering… what good would anger do? It would not make anything better… the surgeons and doctors had done all they could. Nick’s fate was now in the hands of a higher authority and that of his own will to live. The plumber’s was the first voice of true compassion I had heard. The first who had looked beyond the acute damage to the wider picture of hurt.
His words were a clear and sparkling stream cutting through the morass of emotions and allowing me to see clearer. I did not need to conform to anyone’s expectations of anger… did not need to scream for revenge. The Law would deal with the perpetrator, not I, nor those who, in their own grief and anger offered to find a way. The voice of compassion cleared the air and allowed me to breathe.
I call it compassion, and forgiveness, but there is another name for what is behind them. A name for what my Rastafarian plumber brought into the house that day with a purity I have seldom encountered elsewhere and a joy that shone from his parting smile.
A couple of weeks later, he would come back, knocking on the door for news. Then a few months later, leaving me his phone number and texting occasionally to see how things were. A total stranger whose necessary presence I had initially resented… a Samaritan… an unlikely angel… had brought Love into my home.