Not the usual type of post in this thread, but on-topic nonetheless
Full article at: https://truestoryaward.org/story/51
The Other Guy and Me
Ireland is conducting an experiment: an assembly of one hundred citizens gathers to discuss important topics and influence parliament. Politics has come alive – and with it, a friendship between two men, who at first felt nothing but prejudice toward the other.
Finbarr O’Brien’s unhappy life, which has lasted 62 years to date, has known moments of beauty as well. The birth of his two sons. Afternoons with his grandkids. Even the day he learned that the man, whose name he does not speak, killed himself. But the best time of his life, Finbarr O’Brien says, was different. It lasted for just over a year and began on an autumn day in 2012 that couldn’t have been more normal. As if the unlikely immensity that lay in store for him had a keen sense of irony.
That day, as on any other workday, Finbarr drives his van 110 kilometers over the rolling green hills and narrow stone bridges around the small, southern Irish city of Macroom, making stops at 540 mailboxes in total. After delivering the last of the day’s packages and letters, he breaks for a coffee on his way home. He’s sitting alone at a table, when a woman enters the café.
He knows her, but then, he knows almost everyone here. O’Brien is a good mailman. Not the kind to snoop in people’s postcards. Rather, he’s the kind of mailman people are eager to share their news with. The kind they tell where the spare key is hidden, in case they’re out. O’Brien knows whose car is whose here, who is sick with what, where the kids have gone to study, and what brand of food the dogs get.
As for the woman who enters the café that day, he knows that her name is Caroline, and that she works for a polling institute, or something. She comes over to his table. Finbarr, she says, would you be interested in going to Dublin one weekend a month for about a year, to consult on a new constitution for Ireland?
No, she says, she’s serious.
Finbarr knows what the constitution is. As for what’s supposedly wrong with it, he’s not so sure. He asks what any of this has to do with him.
She was tasked with finding participants for a citizens’ assembly—an experiment the Irish government wanted to conduct. This assembly was intended for normal Irish citizens, she said, people like you and me. He didn’t need any experience. He wouldn’t be paid. Travel costs would be reimbursed. Was he interested?