I travelled into Colchester by bus today, to do some Christmas shopping and to watch the film I've just reviewed. I got to the bus station at about 7.50pm and settled down to the half hour wait for a bus to take me home. Now I don't often use the bus, but each time I use it something interesting happens. This time more than most.
I started reading a book, but after a while, a man came over to the shelter who was clearly very much worse for drink. He immediately started accosting me and the handful of people waiting with hostile and abusive language - he even called me an intellectual impostor for reading! (Shock, horror - perhaps alcohol gave him second sight...). However, I managed to have the beginnings of a more civilised conversation with him and he wandered off to the far end of the shelter. Unfortunately he then started haranguing some of the others, including two smallish children (aged about 15), one of whom gave him a bit of lip back - very effectively, but possibly very foolishly. I managed to distract his attention back towards me, in the course of which - because he was banging on about being a soldier - I told him that I was a padre. Which information meant nothing to him and he soon confessed to not being a soldier. But then, realising what I did for a living, he proceeded to harangue me even more aggressively for being a paedophile - for that is what the priesthood is now best known for - and he carried on shouting directly in my face (as in literally one inch or so from mine - I was mostly sitting down) and threatening all sorts of dire physical assaults upon me, giving demonstrations by striking the wall of the shelter and so on.
Now why do I call this post 'proud of our youth'. Mainly because the two other people there, both quite young though older than the small kids, displayed very cool heads, showed concern and compassion in looking after the little ones, and were very sensible and useful in steering the nutter away from the scene of conflict and generally calming things down.
This could have been a story about how rotten our society is. Yet what has most imprinted itself on my mind is how good all these kids were. Very encouraging. Although it'll now take me quite some time to get to sleep as the adrenaline is still in my system!