Mystery Monk wandered out into the sunny garden. The sounds of domestic harmony drifted over the fence, children were playing, lawn's were being mowed, voices chattered as washing was being hung out.
"I feel more aware of the world now we are living within the community, rather than separate from it..." pondered the monk.
Suddenly the relative peace of this suburban idyll was disrupted by the strident notes of the ringtone 'I will survive.' The person receiving the call disappeared inside, the door closed noisily behind them.
Mystery Monk sat and watched as stray oak leaves drifted down, and reflected on the passing of the seasons... Suddenly he was aware of the intense stare of a pair of pale blue eyes...the eyes of Howard.
"Morning Brother Beckham"
Mystery Monk waved, and hoped that would suffice,
but no, Howard had news to impart and from his vantage point on top of his climbing frame, Mystery Monk was his captive audience.
"It's all kicking off again"
Mystery Monk assumed that the proclamation related to football. Look vague, but knowledgeable, he silently advised himself, knowing that his knowledge of any sport was far from current. However, Howard was on a mission, and like an incoming tide, he wasn't about to be halted.
"Donna has walked out on Simon and about to arrive with 'The Rugrats'.
Grandma has fallen over and is in A & E.
Dad has lost his car keys and the spare ones are upstairs...
Yes, it's ALL KICKING OFF AGAIN, FOR SURE!" Howard announced with great emphasis, and then disappeared.
Mystery Monk felt exhausted just by listening to Howard's headlines of horror. He closed his eyes tightly in prayer.
"Lord, help me to be a good neighbour to those around me," he prayed, "especially those going through difficult times"
Just then the door bell rang.
"Saved by the bell" announced Mystery Monk and obediently went to answer the front door. In front of him stood a young woman.
"Brother Beckham, I assume" she greeted Mystery Monk, who smiled weakly and held out a hand. To his great discomfiture, the young lady leant forward and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. Mystery Monk took a small step backwards, just in case any further further attempts at intimacy were on the agenda.
"Hello, I'm Julie from No 19. We've not met before, but you are Howard's current favourite topic of conversation, so I feel as if I know you already." she greeted him with a smile, before pausing to add...."I'm not religious, but it is nice to have some Godly people living close by. Since you Brothers have moved in, it really has made a difference to the neighbourhood. I can't put my finger on what has changed, but people are definitely kinder and more considerate.... Oh, and by the way, I do apologise for Howard looking over your fence. I have asked him to show some respect and not intrude on your privacy, but he's not quite understood that means not leaning over the fence or terrorising you from the top of the climbing frame... If it becomes a problem for you please let me know."
"Oh, do not worry! He keeps us on our toes" replied Mystery Monk with a smile.
"I hope you don't think I am being cheeky, but I have popped round to ask a big favour?"
Mystery Monk looked at the bundle of clothing she was holding. Well I can manage the washing machine, he thought to himself.
"Can you take care of this for me? I need to go and see my Mum, she has had a fall and is in A & E. My husband is walking home He shouldn't be long."
Mystery Monk didn't hesitate "Sure, I would be glad to help!"
The young woman handed Mystery Monk the bundle of clothing. Mystery Monk froze. It was not washing. It was a child. A VERY SMALL CHILD.
Mystery Monk did not hesitate. He panicked!
"A BABY!!!! I can't! I haven't a clue. I don't know what to do" gabbled Mystery Monk, desperately.
"Don't worry, it comes with an instruction manuel in the form of Howard. He knows everything there is to know about looking after babies..." Suddenly Howard appeared and was propelled towards Mystery Monk
"We can talk about goal scoring techniques while you feed her" advised Howard, brandishing a babies bottle of milk.
Mystery Monk had a horrible thought "What if she...."
"Cries?" asked Howard, "We sing to her and give her a little jiggle."
"No, I was thinking more of...."
Howard looked at him and nodded in perfect understanding, before offering a single word of advice.."Pray!"
Mystery Monk took a deep breath, and nodded in agreement, "Yes. Pray. Certainly!!"
Meanwhile his neighbour jumped in her car and was heading off in the direction of A & E. Mystery Monk sighed and took his charges into the house.
Just then the Abbot appeared.
"How does he know?" wondered Mystery Monk.
Then a horrible thought crossed his mind "Maybe he could smell the nappy...."
He paused to see if he could detect any aroma, without sniffing too obviously. Then he smiled..."Maybe the Abbot will be good at changing nappies..."
Then a more realistic thought crossed his mind "He would delegate that job to me..."
"Good Morning Abbot" said Mystery Monk, deciding that if he named the day 'good' it might get the idea...
"I see you have been left holding the Baby" replied the Abbot, peering with bemusement at the infant in arms, "and a new recruit I see" he added, turning to gaze at Howard, who gazed back, completely unfazed
"Nah, I'm Howard from next door and I'm going to be a famous footballer."
Good Morning Howard-from-next-door" responded the Abbot, and shook hands.
They went into the recreation room, and sat down. Upon hearing voices the other brothers appeared to welcome the visitors. Hardly had they settled down when Howard's father appeared to rescue his offspring.
After they departed the Abbot turned to Mystery Monk
" I bet you weren't expecting that!"
"No,", smiled Mystery Monk, "I was thinking about how different it is going to be living here, and wondering how I can be a good neighbour, praying for God to show me how, and then suddenly a door opens and I find myself babysitting!"
"Indeed!" replied the Abbot, "..but don't make a habit of it...."