It just wasn’t fair! Everyone else at Sunday School had something to spend at the corner dairy afterwards and would saunter home licking a delicious ice-cream or chocolate chew bar. We Thomsons weren’t allowed to buy sweet things.
“Bad for your teeth!” our mother would grump. “Here, have a carrot.”
One morning as we were waiting for Sunday School to commence, someone asked me, “How much do you get to spend at the dairy?”
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“Nothing,” I said, “I don’t have any money.”
“Yes, you do,” was the confident reply.
“No, I don’t,” I said.
“Haven’t you got anything for the plate?” she inquired innocently.
“Yes?” I puzzled.
“Well, there you are then. You’ve got plenty.”
Oooh, it was so obvious. Why hadn’t I thought of that before? Sunday School collection money, right in my pocket. I fingered the large copper pennies and a small sixpence. A light twinge of guilt drifted across my back… Not much though. Anglicans didn’t do too much guilt, even then.
What excitement, to enter the forbidden realm of sweeties and fizzy drink, ice cream and chocolate. They tasted so good. I wafted home down the hill on sweet blissful memories.
As I walked in the door, my mother said, “So how much did you spend at the dairy? Where did you get the money?”
“Ah, oh, um, … my collection money,” I admitted sheepishly, reluctantly telling the truth.
“Thought so.” She was stern.
“You’ll have to pay the Sunday School money back. Straight after lunch.”
But how did she know?
The Sunday roast tasted a bit grim. My father was even sterner. “God will know if you don’t put it back,” he declared in best school-masterly tones.
After lunch, I biked all the way up hill again and crept inside the cathedral. Multi-coloured stripes of warm sunshine sparkled across the pews and aisles, through the stained glass windows. Not a soul anywhere. I tiptoed silently over to the collection box. My hard earned coins clattered down inside to replace the Sunday School money, and I sighed about chocolate ice-cream. For a long moment, I gazed all around, over my shoulders and up high into the heavy timber rafters.
I couldn’t see God anywhere.
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