My younger brother

At lunchtime, below the Priory, I passed four young men
sitting on a wall, drinking beer.
‘Are you from the police?’ one called out.
I stopped to talk, as best I could.

The one who called out had just been released
from eighteen months in prison;
he was celebrating by drinking
with his younger brother and two friends.

We discussed alcohol, and smoking, and drugs.
The one who called out said
he was looking after his younger brother
but he used a smack on the head to do it.

The one who called out said prison was hard.
He too was hard, and a bit scary
but something scared in him touched me
and when I left I wished him well.

But I forgot to smack him on the head and say
‘So what will you do to make sure you stay out, dickhead
because otherwise you’ll find yourself back inside.’

I forgot that the one who calls out
may also be my younger brother.


This was in Lancaster, on a path below the Priory, and the Castle (till recently, also a prison for 240 men). How far will we go to express love in language that will be understood? Do we speak only in our own familiar words? Is our compassion true compassion, or only, in Chogyam Trungpa’s phrase ‘idiot compassion’? How would true compassion manifest?

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