Fr Kevin Hegarty
Woody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Many of us have been reflecting wryly on that remark as we trudge through the coronavirus pandemic. Appointment diaries for 2020 are lists of cancellations and postponements. Foreign holidays, weddings and sports fixtures are all on hold. Our carbon footprint is much lighter.
The pandemic has brought sadness and grief. It is especially painful for families who have lost loved ones. Domestic violence has increased. Benefits of our newly confined existence, however, include a deeper appreciation of the love of family and friends and the wonders of the natural world.
In ‘Innocence’, Patrick Kavanagh captures the value of the local:
They laughed at one I loved –
The triangular hill that hung
Under the Big Forth. They said
That I was bounded by the whitethorn hedges
Of the little farm and did not know the world.
But I knew that love’s doorway to life
Is the same doorway everywhere.
I am reminded of a humorous recitation that I heard on RTÉ radio some time ago, entitled ‘The Two Travellers’. One man boasts about his world travels while the other extols the glories of south Tipperary. The following stanzas give a flavour of the dialogue.
And I’ve hunted the tigers in Turkestan,
In Australia the kangaroos;
And I lived six months as medicine man
To a tribe of the Kathmandoos.
And I’ve stood on the scene of Olympic games,
Where the Grecians showed their paces,”
The other replied, “Now tell me, James,
Were you ever at Fethard Races?”
“Don’t talk of your hunting in Yucatan,
Or your fishing off St Helena;
I’d rather see young fellows hunting the ‘wren’
In the hedges of Tobberaheena.
No doubt the scenes of a Swiss Canton
Have a passable sort of charm
Give me a sunset on Slievenamon
From the head at Hackett’s Farm.
Last week I read an essay, ‘Acres of Diamonds’, by Russell Conwell. He was a 19th-century American Baptist Minister, lawyer and philosopher. He founded Temple University in Philadelphia. On a visit to the Middle East he met an Arab guide who told him the story that inspired the essay.
Hafid was a wealthy African farmer. He owned a fertile farm, well stocked with camels and goats. He had orchards of figs and dates. One day an itinerant hold man told him there were fortunes to be made by discovering diamonds.
Hafid enquired where the diamonds were to be found. The holy man was vague about the exact details. He had heard that they were usually discovered in the white sand of rivers that flowed out from valleys formed by V-shaped mountains.
Hafid was temped to increase his wealth. He sold his farm and travelled to Africa in pursuit of diamonds. Having no success he succumbed to despair and took his life.
Meanwhile the man who bought Hafid’s farm was one day watering his camels in the river near his house when he noticed a delightful rainbow glitter from a chipped rock. He brought it home and put it on a shelf where the afternoon sun would strike it and splash rainbows across the room.
Sometime afterwards the holy man returned and noticed the rock. He asked “Has Hafid returned?”
“No,” replied the puzzled farmer. “What do you mean? I don’t understand.”
“This rock is what I mean,” said the holy man. “Has Hafid returned?”
The farmer told him he had found the rock at the river.
The holy man was convinced it was a diamond. They went to the river which flowed out from a valley formed by a V-shaped mountain. There they discovered several more diamonds. The land that Hafid sold to fund his pursuit of diamonds turned out to have acres of them.
Sometimes the treasures we seek elsewhere are to be found at home.