Meeting Jack is a lovely start to the day

BY Fr Michael Commane - The Way I See It

Published 10/11/2015 | 00:00

michael commane
michael commane

Jack is 62. He is a big strong man with a fabulous head of hair, something about which I am jealous. He has a long shaggy beard too, which suits him.

Jack is not his birth name. I happen to know his birth name and age because some months ago I visited him in prison. He's out of jail now and most mornings of the week I chat with him in the porch of a Dublin church. He's sitting either in the porch or on the steps of the church when I arrive in the morning. He arrives on a woman's bike, which really is not meant for this big 1.88 metre-tall man.

About three weeks ago he was sitting on the steps and playing the tin whistle when I arrived. He's there most mornings but the odd morning that he is not there I miss our few minutes chat and laugh. He calls me Michael and I'm back calling him Jack. On discovering his birth name I used it for a while until he told me that he prefers Jack.

There are one or two topics that greatly annoy him and if they are raised he gets very upset and tends to shout and scream. Naturally when he goes on like that some people get upset and even frightened. So it's best to stay well away from those topics. On occasion he can leave bits of paper and orange peel on the ground but when I suggest he refrain from leaving any rubbish behind him he smiles and promises it won't happen again.

I have noticed a number of other people stop and chat with him. I think they also give him a few cent. One man gives him a fiver every day. Jack's an intelligent man. Whether or not he has formal education, I don't know but I do know that he is learned. Some weeks ago I said something to him and he suggested it was a double entendre.

I have tried in vain to find out where he lives. I get the impression that he lives somewhere in the Sandymount area of Dublin. Does he live 'rough'? I'm inclined to think he does. Any attempt on my part to find out where he lives or an effort to make a suggestion that I call on someone who might be able to help is strenuously turned down. He'll have none of it. On one occasion I did contact the Peter McVerry Trust. They were most helpful but as long as Jack does not want help there is little anyone can do.

Jack has a lovely smile, something really roguish about it. It's clear he likes me and I certainly like him. Some days I give him a few cent, never more than €5. On Thursdays he tells me: "no money today Michael". It's the day he gets his social welfare payment. When he has a few bob to spare it seems he puts a euro on a horse. No more.

In the first days of his imprisonment I was wondering where he had gone. Eventually I tracked him down. I missed him when he was locked up. Any morning there is no sign of his bicycle or of him I genuinely feel a little sad. What at all is he going to do in the cold wet weather of winter?

Jack is a kind man. And he's so enjoying his tin whistle. He tells me he is teaching himself. I'm saying it more and more: it's a funny-old-world. Meeting Jack is a lovely start to the day.

Wexford People

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