When the divorce of Sue and Peter was noised abroad, the members of their set were not surprised. ‘Sue never really belonged, did she?’ they said. Peter, of course, had belonged: popular, the life of the party, in everything, a real extrovert!
Sue was like a boat without a rudder. She had been happy to be carried along in Peter’s slipstream and had at first quite enjoyed the endless round of parties, although for some years the emptiness of it had been getting to her. Then, when Peter started having other relationships, they slipped apart. Finally, by mutual consent, they separated.
So she was alone, and she was lonely. She had no real friends among the old set.
Her mind turned to Marrianne with whom she had worked in her first job. They had been best friends before Peter came on the scene—but Marrianne had not been drawn to Peter and so she and Sue had drifted apart. Marrianne was different—quiet, self-contained, and really happy within herself. They had had many happy times together.
Sue contacted Marrianne and invited her to come and have dinner. When she came, it was as though they had been separated for weeks rather than years. They exchanged experiences without any awkward pauses and sat quietly for a while. Life had not been easy for Marianne. Her much-loved husband had died in an accident and she was in remission from cancer.
Sue asked, ‘Marrianne, what is it that gives you your obvious inner happiness? Because, whatever it is, I would like to have it, too.’
Marrianne said, ‘I haven’t always been as I was when you and I worked together —and frankly, I am not always like that now, especially when I think of Paul, which is constantly. But when I was sixteen and seventeen years old, and my mother was slowly dying from cancer, she and I had many talks. Mum, for all that she left school at fifteen, was a very deep thinker. She taught me a great deal both about her view of what life was all about; and the way she never allowed her illness to dominate her spirit. And though Dad had died when I was one, she had never allowed that to warp her approach to being alive.’
‘She had never been a churchgoer, but she knew the Bible and had read the holy books of other major religions also, which was a surprise to me. Out of that, she worked out an approach which suited her well. I have tried to put her philosophy into practice; not out of loyalty to her, but also because it has given me something to focus on, especially since Paul’s death.
‘Mum was a goldsmith apprentice, and she believed that there was a Creator. He was the Apprentice Master: and everyone was an apprentice—at least during his or her life on earth. “As apprentices,” she said, “we are here to learn what works and what doesn’t work in the workplace of life.”
‘In Poland during WW2, Mum observed the unhappiness people brought upon themselves by hatred. For her, the single main lesson of life was to learn to choose to love and not to hate and the more one opted for love, the easier the choices would become’.
‘That has been my experience, too,’ Marrianne said. ‘My father had one favourite Bible quote: “Judge not that ye be not judged”. Mum took this to heart: and, no matter what happened, would only ever say, if indeed she said anything at all, to the effect that it had “happened”: no value judgement, no praise, no condemnation, no gossiping about it—just “it happened”.
‘Mum’s Bible quotation was the parable of the Good Samaritan. “If you can see an opportunity to help without interfering,” she said, “do it, preferably invisibly but out in the open if there is no choice. No fuss, no bother, absolutely no ‘big-noting”‘. There were other aspects which Mum talked to me about—but these were the basic ones.’
‘All I can say,’ Marrianne went on, ‘is that they have worked well for me. Try them out if you like. They will either work for you or they won’t.’