It was Tuesday, March 16th early in the morning when my friend Pat came and got me. 

We drove together up to the middle school. On arriving, we went in and chatted with the teachers. 

We had come to talk to the kids. We were to give them a presentation about Ireland, its location, history, culture, folklore and its magical 40 shades of green. 

Beside myself, Pat is the only other Irishman in our little town. He is from Belfast which is the capital of Northern Ireland. But he’s been in America for ages, as have I. He was 17 when he came to the States. I was 15 when I came over. That’s so long ago that it seems like another lifetime in looking back at it. 

I’m from the deep south of Ireland, County Tipperary. You might have heard that famous rousing old song:”It’s a long way to Tipperary”.

My memories of those bygone days are faint to me now. It was another time in a far off place in a land of lush green fields, small thatched roof houses, castles, forests, lakes and mountains. But just thinking of it brings it all back making it so real to me once more. 

I spent many happy youthful days in that peaceful land of wondrous beauty. My family, friends and neighbors were plain and simple hardworking people with hearts of gold. Needless to say, it was a lovely location for a child growing up. 

At that same time in Northern Ireland, people lived through what they called “The Troubles”.

Pat was raised in the cold and harsh war torn streets of Belfast. Hatred, violence, fear and anxiety were all around. There was a wall dividing the haves from the have nots in the city. He was on the poor Catholic side. 

Christianity teaches love, kindness, peace and brotherhood.

Yet, in the North of Ireland, there is a strange split dividing that faith into two opposing factions, even though they have the same basic religious foundation and beliefs. And it runs down through generations for hundreds of years. It has destroyed countless lives and brought a dark cloud down on what would  otherwise be a joyous lilt of laughter, merriment and good natured Irish spirit. 

The three colors of the Irish flag are green, white and orange. The white symbolizes peace between the orange (Protestants) and the green (Catholics). 

Pat was filling me in on this from his first hand experience as we drove to the school. And even though I was aware of the conflict back in that time, it was such an unbelievable contrast to the pleasant peaceful life I enjoyed in the South of Ireland. 

Luckily he got out (escaped you could say)  and moved to the USA to avoid the dreadful fate that awaited him in Belfast. 

And he has had a very good and productive life in this country. He has a large loving family, great friends, and a supportive, peaceful community which he serves in a religious capacity. 

So back to the school again where we were introducing ourselves to the teachers and principal. That’s when they brought in the first batch of kids. 

There were about 40 boys and girls, first through third grades I think. All sat on the floor, quiet and attentive. I could see an eagerness for knowledge and experience from their childhood eyes gazing at me from above their masks. 

Pat and I took turns explaining to them...

Ireland is an island about 300 miles long and 50 miles wide. It’s perched on the Atlantic Ocean on the western edge of Europe. It’s a member of the European Union. It has 32 counties and some 5 million population. It has 4 seasons, a moderate temperature and a good amount of rain.

The country is divided into the 26 counties of the free state Irish Republic in the south and the 6 counties in the north still under British rule.  

We talked to our audience about Irish history, castles, clans, heroes and of course Saint Patrick.

We told how an Irish raiding party captured him when he was a youth in England and brought him by boat to Ireland to live his life as a slave. Then we told how he later escaped back to England, grew up, studied and wanted to spread his Christian faith. Also we revealed how he decided to return to the Emerald Isle in order to bring his religion to the people of Ireland. 

We went on explaining about the symbol of the shamrock, Irish culture, music,  rainbows and leprechauns. 

Gee you should have seen them! That’s when the kids really perked up with excitement. Their eyes shone and their hands flew up with nonstop questions and keen interest.

It was a similar experience with the second batch of higher grade students which followed.

I think our presentation was a great success. Sure the leprechauns helped us get through to the kids. Saints be praised!

They may not all have Irish blood but they now have a bit of Irish knowledge. 

Surprisingly, just now, jotting down the above event, brought me to an interesting realization. That is that Pat, stuck in his early life of danger, difficulty and hardship, luckily escaped it all. He went on to be a devout Christian and is now sharing his faith in his community as a Catholic deacon. 

This appears to me as a similarity to what his namesake did.

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