The story of Martin
Once upon a time lived a little boy called Martin. He was smaller than average for seven years, and he was frequently made aware of it. He first knew that he was different when a group of children on his road surrounded him chanting: “Pissy pants poor boy”, and asking “Where is your dad”?
The truth was that Martin had never known his dad. He had tried to ask his mum one night, but she had been drinking that horrid red stuff from a bottle. So, instead of getting the answer he sought, he got her a basin to throw up into. Soon after he got a punch, so red stuff came out of him too. A small part of him hoped that the red stuff would make his mother more interested in him. Perhaps, he thought, it needed to come from a bottle.
The following day Martin was bought a brand new toy gun. It made his grin reach his ears. Despite the red bump, his nose was not that sore after all!
Sadly, some weeks later Martin was sure that he was different from other boys and girls. His mother had a new friend to visit. It was dark, cold, and he was sure that it was getting late. Nonetheless he had no choice but to walk around until he saw the light in his mother’s bedroom go back on; like he had been told.
As Martin wandered through the streets he realised that he could see inside homes through gaps in the curtains. He saw mothers kissing their children. He saw them smiling and hugging them. What he did not see were blood stained shirts and angry faces. There were no screams of fury, no whimpers of terror and.. he knew.. those children were not begging to be loved.
On Martin’s very first day in school he walked into the grounds. All around him stood tearful mothers zipping up their children’s coats and whispering secrets into their ears. Somehow he knew by their faces that their secrets were special and happy; nothing like the secrets he had been instructed to keep.
It took less than a week for the children at his school to begin to taunt him. When he was spat at, he learned to spit. He learned to fight, and when he was punched and kicked, he learned to cry softly. However, most importantly, he learned that the world was filled with nasty people and he needed to keep himself safe by any means possible.
So he found himself early one Saturday morning being told by mum, who now wanted to be called Sandra, to go for another walk in the rain. Martin was already soaked when he reached his favourite bench under the giant tree that provided shelter from the water falling from the sky.
Martin was lost in day dreams of log fires lighting on cold days when he suddenly became aware of the elderly lady beside him. She smiled widely at him. Martin growled and looked away. “Hello” he heard her say in her raspy old paper voice. “Leave me alone you old hag!” he retorted, “Can’t you see that I want to be alone?”. Martin spat at the lady, hoping and wishing that she would disappear, just like everybody else did when he acted this way.
The lady, sighed deeply and pulled out a scented tissue made of fabric to wipe the saliva from her face. His peripheral vision aided him to see that her expression was disturbed and complexed. Some minutes went by in silence. Martin thought about leaving. Her sad face had made him angrier. He thought about kicking her legs and calling her horrid names. Yet… for some reason he stayed.
Finally the lady broke the silence. “Young man” she said. “I do not need to know your name, nor do I need to know your story”. “You and I share more than your youthful mind could ever fathom”. Perplexed Martin turned to face her.
Her laughter rang out. It sounded more like a raspy cough, yet still the sunshine twinkled in her eyes. “I call you Young Man” she said. “But when I see your face I know that those defiant blue eyes have seen far more than they should for a boy of your age”.
The old lady reached into her handbag and pulled out a small black purse. Instantly Martin considered running off with it, like he had done so often in the past to ease his hunger. However, something compelled him to stay.
“An old lady like me” she chuckled “sees a boy like you and realises that she has wished her life away, always waiting for something better”. “My breaths on this earth are running out. No matter how much I wish that time back, it cannot be done”. “You, Boy, You still have a chance”. She reached inside her handbag, pulling out a chocolate bar. She emptied the contents of her purse into his hands. Martin gasped inwardly..
“Take it” she whispered, “and use it”. “Don’t spend your days hoping for a brighter future. Have the strength to make one for yourself”
Martin was astonished. “But..but.. I called you a hag, and I spat in your face”.
“Yes” she said. “Every baby should be born into love, and every child should know happiness. You and I are like peas in a pod. The world has been cruel to you and you feel safer by keeping people far away.” She coughed long and hard before continuing.
“What you do not know yet is ‘the secret’” she said as she winked. “The people in this world have been cruel. I refuse to join them. I too know the loneliness of invisibility. You spat at me, because the world has been spitting at you.
You are not responsible for your past, but, unlike me, you can do something about your future. Take this money, with more to come, as long as you promise me one thing: Do not allow the damaged people in your life to leave indelible marks. Splendour awaits the world once your soul has been set free. My name is Martha, and as long as I live I will be your friend”.
Martin is now 54. He forgave his mothers’ imperfections long ago. In many ways he wished he could have helped her, despite his meagre 8 years on earth. He stands beside his wife of 40 years, and three children who will never know hunger, pain or cold. Having dedicated his adult life to helping children less fortunate, he is about to open the third community centre that year. Just before he opens the door, he stops to lovingly straighten the giant portrait of Martha. Underneath the inscription reads:
“It only takes one person to believe in you to make the world a safer place”.