There are times when my heart aches so much for our fallen,broken world that I do not know what I can do with that pain other than pray.
Just now, I met a lady called Karen (name changed to protect her identity) on a busy London Underground platform at Euston Square. In the midst of crowds of people, she was cowered up behind a pillar, crying, dabbing a tissue onto a small cut on her head, clearly homeless. She told me that she had been kicked in the head by another homeless person because, apparently, she was begging on “his turf”. She is meant to be resting and eating good food while taking her antibiotics, but has no money to get a decent meal and nowhere to sleep so how could she get better? She said that the other day, a stranger had offered to give her 20 pounds and she was so happy- until he asked her for sexual favours. When she protested, he said,”You did not honestly think I was giving you twenty quid for nothing in return?”
When faced with so much brokenness, how could I not do something that would restore her faith in humanity? And so I gave her the cash I had in my wallet. She was so grateful that she hugged me, and at that moment, all the differences between us evaporated, turned into a sprinkling of angel dust and rays of light in the darkness. We were both sisters in Christ, called to share our common humanity. Nothing more and nothing less.
I am not telling you this story to make myself feel good. Rather, it is part of a heartfelt confession, a moment of personal repentance on my journey. After all, how often do I fail to do the right thing by those who truly need my help? How often do I grieve in private-about homelessness, poverty, suffering-and yet take no action? This Christmas, I feel weighed down by a realisation that I did not do enough this year to play a tiny part in making this world a better place. Yes, I wrote to my MP to complain about Britain’s failure to help more refugees, but when he sent me the lamest of responses in return, tainted with the jargon of party politics and political correctness, I failed to act , convinced that I could not make a difference. As the horrors of Syria unfolded and continue to become apparent, I cried silent tears of despair, sometimes prayed -but did nothing. If we had all raised our voices and demanded actions from our governments, would our leaders have done something to intervene rather than stand by and let these crimes of humanity unfold in front of our very eyes? Perhaps;perhaps not. All I know is that I would find it easier to live with myself right now if I had at least tried.
Is there a possibility that Karen will spend my gift on drugs or alcohol? Yes there is. Would it have been wise not to take the chance and give the money to a charity instead? Possibly yes. Could Karen have grabbed my wallet and run off with the little that was left in it-yes.But perhaps one thing that is wrong with our world is that we no longer trust, no longer believe that people’s stories can be true, that our individual actions can change lives or our world for the better. For me personally, the time has now come to challenge that “pattern of this world” -in my own thinking,in my actions, by God’s grace and with His protection.
So tonight I pray that God will help me honour my conviction and take the risks this may involve; that I would not be complacent;that I will use all the blessings that I have been given to bless others in any way possible, big and small, through a kind word, actions, raising my voice or money when appropriate. I pray that right now as I write this, Karen is tucked up safe and well in a bed in a hostel; that someone is giving her a chance to turn her life around as we speak. And I pray that all of us would believe that we can make a difference-in the power of God’s son Jesus, whose birth we are getting ready to celebrate.
Merry Christmas to you all.