The Ring

Many families had an heirloom that is passed on each generation.  Or perhaps it’s a story about an ancestor that is told to each new generation.  In my case it was the ring that was passed on, I being the only son.  Strangely there is no story about the origin of the ring, but there is a very definite duty and tradition that comes with it that is many generations old.

Apparently it had occasionally jumped a generation before someone in the family, and it could be male or female, would take up the responsibility and role again.  We called it ‘carrying the ring’.

In my case I knew the story from childhood onwards as my grandfather – paternal – was the carrier of that time.  Even as a child I had a real feel for it and what it meant.  I understood that the ring didn’t give you power, the ring was power.  That was why we called it ’carrying’.

That sort of understanding is strange, because as a family we never sat and analysed the situation.  It seemed to me I was born with the insights.  Somehow it was a part of being me.  I explained it to myself by likening it to sheepdogs I had seen from pups.  They had an inborn love for herding sheep.  In a similar way I had an inborn understanding and readiness to carry the ring.

But coming back to my grandfather, Nick, had come to England from Italy early in the nineteen hundreds, bringing the ring and a tradition with him.  There was a big enough Italian community in London to understand the meaning and power of the ring, and some of the community knew my family from the past, so knew the tradition.  gradually English people got to know too, so it was never something we had to tell people about or try to convince them.  That all went on around us and them, and the ring had an interesting enough history to tell its own story.

So my grandfather was well known as someone for certain people to seek out.  Don’t misunderstand me, grandpa was just an ordinary old guy, very quiet, occasionally made ice cream, drank a little wine with his cronies, and whose whole life revolved around his children and running his fruit and vegetable shop.  You didn’t need to be charismatic or outstanding to carry the ring.  That was part of what I had understood as a child.  I also knew about how to respond to people who needed contact with the ring.  It was just something I knew about.  Some people might say it was because I had seen it happen with grandpa, but I don’t think so.

Anyway, what I am leading up to is that when grandpa went back to Italy to visit his family he died, and the ring was passed to me.  Everyone in the family agreed that was how it should be.  Of course, you’re probably still wondering what exactly I took on in wearing the ring.  Well, I delayed describing that so I could give a little background.  Also, I’m not sure how well I can describe what the ring does, what its power is.  Put simply, people come and touched the ring when they want to re-establish their relationship with God.  It is probably also true that people touched the ring when they had got to the end of their own resources or strength, and they want to let that power standing beyond their own limitations into their life.

Maybe if I tell you about one such person it will help you grasp what I mean.

There are regular street markets in London that occur once a week.  There was one near us not far from Euston station, on a Tuesday.  I would take the barrow there loaded and sell stuff that was usually just about three things, like apples, bananas and seasonal fruits such a strawberries; things we could offer for a good price.  So on this particular day I was at the market doing a little trade and I noticed a young woman just across the road looking my way.  I knew instantly she needed the ring.  I guess it wasn’t too difficult to tell.  She was in her twenties, slightly built, brown ordinary hair, and she could barely stand still.  She reminded me of a wild animal getting near a person, but who is ready to run away at the slightest move.  I wear the ring on my left hand like a wedding ring.  So I put my left hand away from me, leaning on it and looking in the other direction.  There was a break in the trade, things happen like that with the ring.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see her cautiously approaching.  Whoever had told her about the ring must have told her she didn’t need to deal with me at all.  It was all between her and the ring.  Poor cow was really nervous though, and if I had so much as looked at her I’m sure she would have run off.

Then I felt the light touch and she was off, fast.  But now I could look and she was already shaking, sobbing as she went.  That’s the power of the ring.

This part of it I have thought a lot about.  I have seen it in a lot of people, young and old.  It takes courage and determination to go up to complete stranger and touch a ring he is wearing.  It is only when you are desperate to reach out for help that you are ready to risk looking like an idiot by going up to it stranger, touching his ring, and all that in an atmosphere where most people profess to believe in nothing but pitiless chance.

I have seen it again and again.  Something wonderful and powerful happens to people.  They cry, they laugh, their face shifts and tears ran down their cheeks.  A flood of something runs through them, things, heartbreak, guilt, grief, are washed away.  It isn’t always painless.  I have seen people fall on the ground crying out as things leave them.  And I don’t know if it is the ring, or the fact those people have dared to ask, maybe it is because a stranger knows they’re asking.  Whatever it is, it is a great privilege for me to carry that ring, and to see again and again, how people reconnect to something so amazing, so beautiful.

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved