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Sally Keogan, aged 16, the winner of our Young Writer of the Year competition, tells the poignant and happy story of Charlie.
There is a young man, who was born in 1952 and was christened Charles. I le has now matured physically and has the build and
strength of a man of twenty-six. Yet he 'possesses the mind and logic of a child, which is a harsh and saddening contrast.
The very basic things in life which are innate to us are beyond Charlie's reach, To him they become complex and bewildering. His mind rejects their simplicity and contorts them uncontrollably. thus they become things he is not able to understand.
Communication, a free and natural gift for many, is more
often than not a losing battle with Charlie. His speech is inarticulate and often consists of undefinable
noises, However Charlie does not allow this to deter him. If he has a disagreement to express or advice to give he makes sure he is audible.
From a distance he could pass as a prop-forward for the local rugby side and therefore casts a rather foreboding shadow as the dark closes in. However as one
draws near. the light seeks out his
features and one can see they belong to a man who posses the
traits of a child. His full, fleshy
face surrounds two ingenuous but genial eyes and he walks sheepishly shuffling his corpulent body with his large hands hidden in his trouser pockets.
As the child he is, Charlie naturally needs guidance. Someone to look after his very needs which are similar to those of all other children. He has a home with a couple who have adopted him, although not literally, very much figuratively in their hearts. These people provide Charlie with a sense of belonging which is essential in the life of any child. For more often than not the words which are often on the tongue of a child are "You don't want me any more!"
Charlie may not realise his gratitude but he has indeed manifested it in many ways. The very fact that he acknowledges the couple as his friends and as people to respect is reward enough.
Everyday, is a great teat for Charlie consisting of simple tasks which his bemused mind attempts to sort out. Even these basic jobs prove often too overwhelming and he is left not understanding. To not understand something or to be in the dark are two things which terrify the human mind. We allow ourselves to disfigure something we do not comprehend into something we begin to tear. When in the dark we allow our imagination to run away with us until we have turned darkness into an object of terror. However we have been granted L special
gift which diminishes these fears and false ideas. a gift which is innate to most, that is common sense.
To Charlie this gift Wag never presented. He has had to battle against two terrifying fears, alone. the unknown and the dark. His life is a perpetual puzzle, M. here everything is alien and difficult to understand in his ingenuous mind, He lives in a continuous state of ignorance and darkness, but this has not deterred him. His lack of common sense has been replaced by a total. child-like trust in others. To them he looks for guidance and it is only these, who bring any light in to his shadowed existence. Charlie is able to face each day with this trust added to his own courage and accomplish it.
Many could abuse Charlie and use his candid manner for their own advantage. luckily Charlie has found himself among friends. his social life evolves round two centres, one a Catholic club. the other a public house. He is familiar in both and treated with respect. The people there seem to understand him. their attitude to him is often jovial hut obvious compassion is portrayed. In these very friendly atmospheres Charlie Collies out of a rather tentative exterior and totally relaxes. He manifests an air of importance and pertinent Familiarity with all and all respond and encourage him. To those he recognises he replaces his rather vacant stare with a boyish grin and hails them with a wave of his solid fist. A group would be seated around a table chatting and Charlie spying a vacant seat would join them. Quite content to sit. listening to a conversation of which he is quite ignorant, yet this fact does not deter .him and he quite willingly gives advice.
In fact Charlie is quite an asset to the club. His corpulent frame is
well used in the transporting of
crates of beer which he lifts with ease. At times he is even a means of entertainment, for when he sights the set of drums in the room there is no preventing him from climbing behind the instrument and thumping away at it. He unrestrainedly expresses his emotions beating incessantly at the drums, making a fearful racket.
This is however endured willingly by his fellow club members, with an unnatural unselfishness. Even when C'harlie discovers the microphone and decides to sing a lullaby, their patience is not tried.
It would he very difficult not to grow fond of Charlie. Asa man he is liked by all because of the honesty and eager character he has. He is willing to help anywhere and is often found in the evening. where social gatherings have accumulated. tidying up and inevitably removing the beer crates. He revels in this type of social atmosphere. This is only natural when one thinks of the warm affability one finds in this particular Catholic club. In these
familiar surroundings he feels sure of himself and his many problems are ironed out through the geniality of his friends.
After a few months of expert training Charlie mastered the art of dart throwing and then entered and won a Charity competition. His joy was not only his but shared by all in the club.
One does not know whether Charlie realises that he has indeed achieved something for he has a rather nonchalant air about hint. He seems to accept all and anything which, is slightly out of the ordinary has no effect. If any pomp had been added to the presentation of the trophy, Charlie would have been quite oblivious
of it. His sincere eyes would have seen quite past any ostentation, for Charlie is not hindered by any social status. he is not affected. for him all beings are quite equal. On one occasion this child-like simplicity was manifested quite clearly.
An educational meeting was being held in a particular school hail and a rat her pompous speaker was addressing the audience. In steals Charlie. quite oblivious of the rather restrained and correct atmosphere in thc hall. He shuffles down the centre aisle ignoring the horrified stare of the speaker and sights the familiar face of my father. He raises his fist and gives him the all-toocharacteristic salute, then leaves.
Charlie has no ambitions or portentous thoughts. thus he has no disappointments and is not easily depressed but finds joy in a simple existence. Ins life has been a perpetual childhood, lie has been spared the pain of growing up and the pressures of adulthood. Although he may have missed out on the happiness of a maturing mind he has been spared for a greater joy. Charlie would not harm any being willfully, therefore like a child he is exempt from real sin. He is a child of God and has a N.,ery special vocation in life. He presents ('hrist's example of a simple trusting existence on earth, which God wanted us all to share. For the Church consists of child-like, pure and honest love and Charlie is this.