‘The Happy Irish Fiddler’ told by an Irish nun.

There was a time in Ireland when many people were starving. It was the time of the potato famine. The very old and the very young were worst affected. Many died. Large numbers of young people who were still strong and healthy decided to leave the country. Thousands fled to America.

There is a story that goes back several generations in my family. They hailed from Ireland and several of them emigrated to America. One, who would have been my great, great, great uncle, was a fine singer and musician. He had no trouble at all making a new life for himself, for wherever there were the Irish, there was singing and dancing, and with out a musician there would have been none of quality. What the Irish like best is traditional music of quality. A tin whistle may suffice if there is none other, but when a violin appears and is well played, ah, then you have an evening to remember.

My uncle, they say, was given free board and lodging wherever he went. He was welcomed with open arms. When he took out his penny whistle, there were smiles all round. When he revealed his violin, there was rejoicing.

Now, ancient uncle, who was called Patrick, used to wonder about life. He noticed how music made people happy and dancing made them even happier. He noticed that beer seemed to make them happy, then after a while and more beer they could become angry, violent sometimes, or just sad and morose, missing the old country.

Patrick used to encourage people to dance because as he would say,

“If they’re dancing, they’re not drinking too much, and they’ll be feeling happy in the morning.” For sure a man who dances too much usually feels very happy the next day, but a man who drinks too much always feels bad the next day.

Uncle saw it as his duty to try to make people happy. In fact he had a nickname, it was Happy Paddy. He used to try to live up to his name. As he got older Paddy found he could not dance as he did when a young man. This did not prevent him from playing his fiddle for others to dance to. People used to come up to him and ask his advice about life. He was always smiling, always jovial; perhaps they thought he had the answer to the meaning of life. All his wrinkles curled upwards. His mouth, even at rest, seemed to be half smiling, and his eyes always twinkled at the world.

One day a young man approached my uncle. He looked rather sad.

“Can I ask you a question, sir?”

“Ask away, young lad! It’ll cost you nothing and if you don’t like my answer you can throw it away, can you not?”

“I’ve been watching you for several weeks playing your violin, smiling away there in the corner. What makes you so happy all the time?”

“Well,” replied the old man, “If the truth be known I am not always happy. When I do have a problem I know that if I sit quietly and think about it just a little, then play my fiddle or perhaps listen to someone else’s music, the answer seems to come to me. This is how I tackle my problems. I don’t let them grow and grow inside my head while I rush about doing things to forget them. I  deal with them immediately by sitting quietly. I imagine that there is a part of me that is much bigger and much wiser than this ‘little me’. I feel that I can hand over my problems to that bigger part of myself. Perhaps it’s my divine soul, perhaps its God, I don’t know. I just know that when I do that, the problem seems to solve itself. The answer comes to me or the problem goes away and doesn’t trouble me any more. Sometimes it’s just a matter of looking at the problem in a different way.

I’d recommend that to you, young man. I can see several furrows on your brow. Try asking for help and sitting quietly. Mind you, I do have a warning; you mustn’t spend too much time doing this. Ten minutes a day would be quite enough for someone such as you. More than that and you’ll start to go over and over your problem, and that never solves anything. After ten minutes go and do something else, something active. Will you have a go and tell me how you get on?

The young man smiled for the first time, “Thanks, old timer, I might just do that.”

Several weeks later the young man reappeared. Paddy was curious. He noticed the unhappy frown had disappeared, “Well, hello, young fellow, and who is this you bring to introduce to me?”

“This is my wife, Elsa. We came to thank you for your advice. I did sit quietly and my soul said ,‘send for Elsa, you’re sad because you miss her. Marry her and start your tailoring business.’ Well I just knew I had to do it, so I did. I’ve come to offer you a new suit, if you’d like one.”

“That’s extremely civil of you young sir,” replied Paddy.“ I could do with a new suit for weddings and funerals you know. It doesn’t do for the fiddler to be too untidy. Now, does it? And I wish you happiness and joy in your new life together. Remember to teach Elsa to ask for help too, then I’m sure the two of you will always be happy.”