Thursday, 27 March 2008

The Royal Way

It was necessary for foreigners in Britain to renew their visas periodically. I had to have mine renewed by 31st December 1954, or leave the country. I did not have a penny to my name, how could I get those forms down to London ? A registered letter cost 1 shilling (12 pennies). I did not believe that God was going to let me be thrown out of school for the lack of a shilling.

And so the game moved into a new phase. I had a name for it by now. I called it the game of the Royal Way. I had discovered that when God supplied money He did it in a Kingly manner, not in some groveling way.

Three separate times, over the matter of the registered letter, I was almost lured from the Royal way. I was head of the student body and in charge of the schools tract fund. One day my eye lit first on the calendar, it was 28th December and then on the fund. It happened to contain several pounds just then. Surely it would be alright to borrow just one shilling.

And surely not, too. Quickly I put the idea behind me.

And then it was the 29th December. Two days left. That morning the thought occurred to me that perhaps I might find those pennies lying on the ground. I had actually put my coat on and started down the street before I saw what I was doing. I was walking along with head bowed, eyes on the ground, searching the gutter for pennies. What kind of Royal Way was this ! I straightened up and laughed out loud there on the busy street. I walked back to school with my head high, but no closer to getting the money.

The last round in the game was the most subtle of all. It was 30th December. I had to have my visa application in the post that day if it was to get to London by the 31st.

At 10 o’clock in the morning, one of the students shouted up the stairwell that I had a visitor. I ran down the stairs thinking this must be my delivering angel. But when I saw who it was my heart dropped. The visitor wasn’t coming to bring me money, he was coming to ask for it. For it was Richard, a friend I made months ago in the Patrick slums, a young man who came to the school occasionally when he needed money.

With dragging feet I went outside. Richard stood on the white-pebble walk-way, hands in pockets, eyes lowered, “Andrew, would you be having a little extra cash ? I’m hungry”
I laughed and told him my predicament and as I spoke, I saw the coin.

It lay among the pebbles, sun glinting off it in such a way that I could see it but not Richard. I could tell from its colour that it was a shilling. Instinctively, I stuck out my foot and covered the coin with my toe. Then, as Richard and I talked, I reached down and picked up the coin along with a handful of pebbles. I tossed the pebbles down, one by one, aimlessly, until at last I had just the shilling in my hand. But even as I dropped the coin into my pocket, the battle began.

That coin meant I could stay in school. I wouldn’t be doing Richard a favour by giving it to him: he’d spend it on drink and be as thirsty as ever within the hour.

While I was thinking up excellent arguments, I knew it was no good. How could I judge Richard when Christ had told me so clearly that I must not. Furthermore, this was not the Royal Way ! What right had an ambassador to hold onto money when another of the Kings children stood in front of him saying he was hungry. I shoved my hand in my pocket and drew out the silver coin.

“Look Richard, I do have this. Would it help any ?”

Richard’s eyes lit up. “it would mate”. He tossed the coin into the air and ran off down the hill. With a light heart that told me I had done the right thing, I turned to go back inside. And before I reached the door, the postman turned down our walk.

In the mail, of course, was a letter for me. I knew when I saw my sisters handwriting that it was from our prayer group back home and that there would be cash inside. And there was, a lot, a pound and a half, 30 shillings. Far more than I needed to send my letter; enough to buy soap, treat myself to my favourite toothpaste and buy Gillette supers instead of blues.

The game was over. The King had done it His way.

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