Two young people were sitting at the same table as me. They were having a conversation and, though I didn’t set out to eavesdrop, I couldn’t really help but hear them. They were two students in Maynooth college and they were discussing college life. I had a clearer view of the lad as he was sitting across the table from me. I’d describe him as “student” – a sort of laid-back look, cool, longish hair, unshaved, casually dressed (but aware of looking the part nonetheless) and well able to talk. She seemed very nice, pleasant and happy to be chatting with him. They seemed to know each other but, I thought, not too well. Maybe he wanted to get to know her better, I can’t be sure. I’d not blame him if he did! They talked about their courses, the train-fare and how they were choosing to stay at home as it saved them a bit of money but they found the daily commute tiring. They seemed to enjoy their life in Maynooth and, as they talked, my mind wandered back to my own days there and I could identify with their enjoyment.
They talked about socialising and the things they liked to do. It was obvious they mixed study and pleasure with an ease you’d admire. “Where do you go for a drink?” she asked. “I’m a Pioneer”, he replied. I wondered. I felt he’d add, “Ah no, I’m only joking” but he didn’t. He said he saved a lot by not drinking. I knew he was serious. She took it in her stride and said what she liked to drink but there was a real respect there.
I’d not have added “pioneer” to his list of attributes but I was so happy to hear him say it. It seemed so natural and so right. It didn’t interfere with his ability to enjoy her company, to share their experience and to shorten the journey. I thought how lovely it would be to hear more young people say this – without blush or embarrassment. I wondered if he knew that he was giving witness to something very powerful– the ability to stand back from the “done thing” and to realise drink didn’t have to be part of his life.
I chatted to the two of them for a while. I never mentioned drink or abstinence but met them on a journey of memory along corridors of a place that was home to me for six years and has been part of my story for nearly two-thirds of my life! I was glad to meet them and it makes me wonder ….
What about another look at “The Pioneers” – especially for our younger travelling companions?