I had of course heard of the Father, and had seen him before, many times actually, as our town is not very large; and his family had lived in the area for a couple of generations, perhaps more. I myself however, was relatively new, so he didn’t know me and we had never actually met. He examined me, in what I soon learned was his characteristic way, with his head tilted slightly to the side, a smile upon his lips, and eyes that were penetrating but gentle. We stood silently for a few moments just looking at each other—gathering information and forming opinions. At least that’s what I was doing.
He broke the silence, “I am hungry, let’s eat!” He looked at me with anticipation, “Do you have time? Will you join me?”
I had, in fact, been on my way home to eat. I was very hungry. I hesitated though, not sure what to do. He sat against the tree and motioned me to sit down with him as he pulled some things from his pockets: figs, freshly picked, a handful of almonds, an apple, and some smoked salmon. This was better than what I had planned back at home: corn chips, Oreos, a bowl of cereal, and half a beer. So I sat down next to him and leaned back against the tree. He cut the apple into slices and set them on a handkerchief spread out between us, along with the other food items and he began to eat.
Nobody was completely certain if Father Davidson was actually an ordained priest, or pastor, or how he had come to be called “Father”. It was said that he had spent time in the Middle East, quite a number of years at a monastery in the desert east of Bethlehem, and perhaps he had become a monk there, and this might have been the source of his title. I was curious about this and wanted to ask him, when he started to speak, seemingly having read my mind:
“I have been a son, a brother, and a father. I prefer to be a son, but the world needs fathers.”
“It is hard to be a father,” I replied.
“It isn’t always easy being a son either, but its better I think. I had children, many of them and they were wayward; they squabbled, they fought…they needed direction. There were hungry children, many of them where I once lived and I fed them. I gave them bread, several loaves to help them live but they fought me.”
“What do you mean they fought you? For giving them bread?”
“For the bread…in spite of the bread, no because of it. Who knows exactly? But as I returned home the next day they attacked me and one little boy, not more than eight, if that old, pulled out a knife and tried to stab me.”
“You’re kidding?! He stabbed you? The boy you gave bread to, all the boys?!”
“Yes. And they became my sons right then. In that moment I was their father. All their pain, their loneliness, their fear, they gave it all to me, to hold for them, for just a little while. So I took it and I held it for them. Little souls.”
When he said this I began to cry, I’m not sure why, but this story touched me, and it felt good to cry. It was a relief to cry, and Father Davidson let me cry, silently, without condemnation. I looked over at him and saw a tear running down his cheek as well, over his smiling lip, and then falling to the ground. For a while we ate in silence.
“This fish is wonderful. Where do you get it?” I asked.
“I have a friend, a brother really, and he shares it with me.”
“It is really good. And the figs too, thank you.”
“You’re welcome. They aren’t far, I can show you the tree, you can pick some.”
“I would like that sometime.”
“Let’s go now. I have my bike there,” he turned and pointed behind the tree. “I’ll take you, sit on the back.” He said as he gathered his things, stood up and pulled the bicycle out from behind the tree.
I hesitated, again unsure of what to do. Surprised by the offer I stood motionless for a moment and considered what I had still to do that day. My day was not busy, I could afford the time so I got on, straddling the seat and held on as he pedaled us back up the street towards town.