INNER LIFE BY DAVID TORKINGTON
IDAMAGED MY foot. I can't be more specific than that because I hadn't the courage to go to my doctor. The last time I saw him he said, "If you insist on wearing sandals like that you'll do permanent damage to your feet." The next day I missed the bus and walked home in the condemned sandals, and that did it.
As I lay in bed that night, tossing and turning, I could hear my mother's voice echoing from the past: "He won't be told, he simply won't be told." As I hadn't the courage to go back to the doctor I had to play nurse to myself. To begin with I sank into deep selfpity, and probably would have remained there had it not been market day.
But I simply had to get fresh fruit, veg and, especially, exercise, so I dragged myself up and hobbled to the bus stop. And to my surprise, the whole day turned out to be a 'liberating experience', as my friend put it after his first therapy session.
Let me explain. After I'd done the market I did the supermarket, and after that I did the hypermarket, and I did it as I've never done it before with the greatest of pleasure.
Once I'd faced the fact that I could only sail at half the knots I'd made before, I actually sailed with good grace, as if propelled by a gentle breeze instead of the explosive engine that drove me around before.
I didn't knock anyone over, I didn't even shoulder anyone out of my way, and I waited for ten minutes at the supermarket checkout with the patience of Job. I actually smiled at the cashier when the receipts roll ran out, as we waited for the supervisor to finish her elevenses.
The cashier told me all about her cruise in the Med, from Genoa to Venice. We'd done every port of call in Italy and one in Corsica before her supervisor turned up and I didn't mind at all.
I'd have blown at least four cylinders any other time, and a couple of gaskets too, but on that day I simply didn't mind at all. I just sailed on regardless with all the time in the world to nod at acquaintances and chat with fairweather friends whom I wouldn't normally notice, even though it was the worst day of the week market day.
It not only turned out to be the hest day of the week, but that week turned out to be the best week of the year, because I had more time more quality time than I can ever remember having before. I found that the old cliché 'more haste less speed' really is true.
I didn't do any less that week than I'd done when my foot was enjoying the same health as the rest of my body, and in one very important way I did more.
Before, I'd been so lost in me and mine that I had no time for them and theirs. But now, nodding
acquaintances were becoming fair-weather friends, and fair-weather friends were becoming allweather friends, while old weatherworn friends suddenly received letters and phone calls that they hadn't had for years I got further that week than I got for months, at least in what really matters. When you stop to think about it, what on earth (or, for that matter, in heaven ) matters more than relationships?
The older I get, the more I realise and appreciate that there is nothing more important that relationships. After all, that's
where we get the word religion from in the first place, because that's what religion is all about. In the end it may well be primarily about our relationship with God, but in the beginning it's more about our relationships with others.
That's why St John pointed out that you can't love the God who you can't see until you can love the brother who you can. If a retreat is a time for slowing down and reviewing the way one's life is going, my damaged foot gave me the retreat I've been in need of for far too long.
It's almost better now, so there can't have been anything seriously wrong, but there was something seriously wrong with the way any life was going. It was going far too fast for my own good and the good of my friends, too.
I haven't thrown the sandals away yet, I've left them by the front door to remind me to slow down, to stop dashing around like there's no tomorrow, because if I don't there'll be no today; no today that's worth living anyway.
Who wants to live any day without friends? I know I don't I don't even want to live without fairweather friends, or nodding acquaintances. I'd rather have a damaged foot any day, wouldn't youn