What really matters

 

Sir, – I grew up not very far from a former Christian Brothers Industrial School. We local boys spent many enjoyable evenings playing football and handball with the boys who resided there. One of my favourite activities was helping out with the harvesting of fruit and vegetables in the Brothers’ farm during the late summer. One day, we were picking apples when the Christian Brother in charge of the farm, appropriately named Brother Farmer, arrived into the orchard accompanied by a black boy.

None of us had ever seen a black boy before, so I instinctively exclaimed, “Oh my God, it’s a black boy”. Brother Farmer smiled benignly at me and gently replied, “His skin is black, Billy boy, but his soul is as white as snow. It’s not the colour of your skin that matters but the joy in your heart and the goodness in your soul”. I will never forget those profound words.

That African boy stayed on for a year preparing to become a Christian Brother. We became great friends and I missed him when he left to pursue his spiritual formation. He later studied for the priesthood and eventually returned to Africa where he has become a powerful advocate for universal education and religious freedom.

We have remained in close contact and meet up occasionally. Virtual communication now allows us to regularly touch base. In his emails he humorously addresses me as “Dear white boy”.

Because of a God-sent interaction with a black boy in my early teenage years, I learned that “all lives matter”, irrespective of colour, race, creed or orientation. – Yours, etc,

BILLY RYLE,

Tralee, Co Kerry.