Little Tommy Taylor
very day I would attend the church gardens. Not because I had to, I just find there’s a serenity, a peace, in nurturing young plants from seed to flower. I’ve always had a green thumb, and plants willingly respond to my attention. I find that this helps me clear my mind and focus my thoughts. If I’m having any difficulty composing my sermon, a little time in the garden, inspiration would come and I would be able to complete my task.
onfession can be good for the soul they say, but sometimes, confession can be quite disturbing for the mind when listened on a weekly basis. One beautiful early spring day after hearing a very gruelling confession, I was completely distracted and upset by it. “Have Faith, you’re doing God’s work,” I kept thinking to myself with little to no comfort coming from those words for the confession just spoke louder. I kept tending the garden barely noticing the blooming plants, for even their young beauty could not clear my mind. I tried to focus only on my upcoming sermon, but it wasn’t coming to light. I had the topic and appropriate passages selected, but there was no balance. It still needed something, but the confession just kept ringing in my ears.
hen I came out to tend the garden, I had noticed a young boy sitting quietly on the swing set in the play ground across from the parish. He had been there the entire time I was in the garden. He was not swinging, he just sat alone. Most of the children had gone home now, but the boy just sat still on the swing. Curiosity, or concern, or a need for distraction from that confession, took over me, and I decided to go talk to the boy. As I crossed the street and approached closer, it became quite clear that the boy had been sobbing the entire time he was in the park. I sat on the swing beside him. “Can I be of help, my Son,” I asked. I did recognize him as one of my parishioners, but I could not recall his name.
The boy wiped his face with his shirt sleeve to hide his tears, and sniffled a “No Father, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure, you don’t look fine to me,” and before he could respond I added, “I’m sure your parents must be getting worried. It is getting late.”
“No Father, really I’m fine. I was going to go home in a few minutes.”
“I understand. You just didn’t want your parents to see you upset. Was there trouble at school today?”
here was an uncomfortable silence, but I could see the tears start to swell up again. Finally he turned to look up with his bright but swollen blue eyes and asked. “Father, are there really miracles?”
asked him why he would ask such a question, and he told me about a few of his classmates bullying him at school since the beginning of the school year. He told me that he had a ’bend in his spine’ which made it hard to play sports during gym class, or games at recess. He told me that the boys were really mean today pushing and shoving him, and calling him ’pansy’, ’gimp’, and ’Peter wiener’, because they lost the soccer game because he could not run fast enough. He then asked that if God could make big miracles like in the Bible, why can’t God do small ones for people like fixing his bent spine. I asked him to take a walk with me.
“Where are we going?”
“Not far, Peter. Do you see the big oak tree at the other end of the park?”
“That’s where we are going, I want to show you something there.”
“What is it?”
“You’ll see when we get there, and then I’ll walk you home because your parents will really be worried about you. Do you know what a cleft palate is?”
“No Father, I don’t”
explained to him what a cleft palate was, and then told him of a little boy named Tommy Taylor who was born with a cleft palate as we started to walk towards the oak tree. “You see Peter, when Tommy started to talk, he had a very bad lisp so he had to start seeing special teachers even before he started to go to school to help him talk clearer. He practised and practised all the time to try and talk better. The special teachers helped him to learn to read, so he could have something to practice saying out loud. He had lots of beginning books that the teachers would lend him, and he would read them to his mom and dad, and also read them as bedtime stories to his little brother. And on days that they would play in the park, Tommy would read aloud to his little brother under the shade of the tree we’re going to. After time, Tommy’s talking did improve but not by much, so when he started to go to school things changed for Tommy.”
“Did he get bullied too,” asked Peter.
“Yes he did. At first the children just laughed and giggled at him because of his lisp, but very quickly the children became meaner. Tommy became scared to talk to anyone in school, and would say as little as possible to avoid getting teased. It got so bad that he even stopped calling people and teachers by their names and would only use their initials. He thought it would be better so he wouldn’t make their names sound funny. But it didn’t work. One day at school, the kids were very mean to him, and at recess they all gathered around him and started singing, ’Here comes Tommy Awl Pa Bet, He can’t say your name I bet, A or B, C or D, He probably even drinks his Pee’. The kids sang this over and over, and some got right up to him yelling at him ‘Say my name Awl Pa Bet,’ until Tommy started to cry and tried to run away from them. They started to push and shove him, and punch at him. One of the bigger boys tried to grab Tommy, but he snapped himself free of his grip and ran away as fast as he could.”
“What happened to him?” Peter asked eagerly wanting to know.
“Well, he ran away from the school into this park and sat under that old oak tree and cried for hours. After a while, Father Anthony was waking through the park and noticed him and asked what was wrong. Father Anthony knew Tommy quite well, and he knew all about Tommy’s lisp. Tommy told ‘Fodder A.,’ what had happened to him at school, and Father Anthony asked him to come to the church because he had a surprise for him that he thought would make him feel better. When they entered the church, Father Anthony dabbed his hand in the font of Holy Water and blessed himself silently. At the same time, Tommy also reached in and blessed himself and said ’Hello J.’ out loud. Father Anthony looked down at Tommy and smiled and said ‘Jesus welcomes you too, Tommy.’ Tommy blushed a little, but followed Father Anthony to the back of the church into Father Anthony’s office in the Rectory. When they entered the office, Tommy became very excited because of what he seen there.”
“What was in there?”
“When Father Anthony was younger, he learned ventriloquism. Do you know what that means Peter.”
“No, I don’t”
“It means that Father Anthony could throw his voice, so inside his office were all kinds of puppets. Every kind you could think of. He had string marionettes, rod puppets, small paddle puppets, and funny hand and sock puppets, and he even had one special favourite puppet.”
“What kind of puppet was it?” asked Peter excitedly clasping on every word I said.
“He had a ventriloquist dummy. The kind that you may have seen on television. Father
Anthony saw how excited Tommy was and told him to sit down. He put the dummy on Tommy’s lap and showed him how to make the eyes work, and the head turn, and mouth to move up and down.ommy laughed at the dummy because Tommy was clumsy with it, and he thought it looked funny as he tried to make it come to life. Father Anthony asked Tommy if he liked the dummy and Tommy said he did very much like it. Father Anthony told Tommy that if he came after school three times a week he would teach Tommy how to become a ventriloquist. Tommy said he would love to learn how to do it. Tommy came to the church to meet Father Anthony every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Tommy was always excited about going to see him. He would enter the church and always blessed himself and say ‘Hello J.’ each time he came to visit. Tommy quickly learned how to use the dummy and throw his voice, and after a while Tommy’s lisp became better and his talking was clearer. Tommy met Father Anthony three times a week for almost two years.
ne day, Father Anthony said he had another surprise for Tommy and he told him that the dummy now belonged to Tommy to keep. But Father Anthony also told him that he would no longer be able to teach him any more because he would be moving to another church to become a Bishop. Tommy loved the dummy, but he also loved to come see Father Anthony for his lessons. Father Anthony said that Tommy better keep practising, because he would be back often to the church and would love to see Tommy do a whole routine with the dummy because Father Anthony thought Tommy was becoming good enough to start doing small stage shows for church functions and such. Tommy loved the idea and promised Father Anthony that he would practice every day and take real good care of the dummy. And practise he did. Tommy would take his younger brother to that old oak tree and put on small shows for him. His brother laughed at every practise show. People in the park became very curious about always seeing Tommy and his dummy by the old tree, especially on Saturdays and Sundays after church. They would gather around and watch Tommy‘s performance. It became the talk of the church how good Tommy was, and even some of Tommy‘s teachers took notice of Tommy‘s improved speech, and many had seen Tommy perform in the park. Even the school Principal heard about Tommy’s ventriloquism and asked Tommy to come to his office one day. What do you think the Principal wanted Peter?”
“I don’t know Father. Was he in trouble?” asked Peter.
“No, Peter. He wasn’t in trouble at all. The Principal asked Tommy if he would perform his ventriloquism for an Easter Celebration in the school auditorium. Tommy was nervous, and very excited about it and agreed to do a show. So Tommy practised, and practised for two whole weeks until he had his routine down pat. Tommy was ready for the Easter Celebration. He wrote an entire show and called his act 'Heir Lisp and Little T'. Heir Lisp is what he named his dummy. When he finally got on stage, everyone was amazed at Tommy’s act because Tommy made the dummy talk really clear, and in a German accent, but when Tommy talked he made his lisp even worse than it was before. People loved the show and he got a standing ovation when it was over, even from the kids that still bullied him. Tommy became quite famous in school and did many shows, even into high school, and also did many charity shows for the church. Bishop Anthony had seen many of his shows and was really proud of Tommy. Nobody bullied Tommy any more because now he was famous and everybody wanted to be his friend and be around him.”
“Is Tommy still famous and doing his shows.”
“No Peter, Tommy’s not doing any more shows. When he was a senior in high school, Tommy got into a bad car accident.”
“What happened, was he okay? asked Peter with concern in his voice.
“No Peter, Tommy was not okay. He passed away that night in the hospital because his injuries were so bad.”
“Father, why would you tell me such a sad story? What has it got to do with miracles?” asked Peter who was again swelling up with tears.
“That’s why I brought you to this old oak tree Peter, because a small and important miracle happened here.”
“What miracle Father?”
“A miracle of love Peter.”
“Of love? I don’t understand?”
“Remember me saying that every time Tommy went to the church, Tommy would bless himself and say 'Hello J.', when he entered."
“Yes Father, I do.”
“Look up on the tree near the first big branch, do you see that carving in the tree?”
Peter ran up the tree and saw a carving that was a heart, and inside the heart said 'Hello Tommy', 'Love', and just the initial 'J'. “I see it,” said Peter, “But how do you know it is for that Tommy?”
Dedicated to Dona Nobis Pacem--Grant Us Peace
And for Peace to happen may we all recognize the "Little Miracles of Love"