In many ways this morning started like most other mornings. I woke up to my alarm feeling like I needed more sleep: like I normally do. I got up, showered, dressed, leaving the house about 45 minutes after I got up. I walked to the train station, got my train, said morning prayer on the train and got off at Waterloo East. I got the 521 bus and got off one stop earlier than I needed to so I could get a coffee and some breakfast from a food place called Leon. So far, so normal.
Then something different.
Anyone working in London, or any major city, will be aware of the large number of homeless people who live and try to get by in our city centres. I frequently see homeless people in the area where I work: sometimes I give them money and sometimes I don’t. I don’t feel great when I don’t. This morning I saw a guy sat outside the door of my breakfast spot. He was obviously homeless, filthy dirty, wearing tattered clothes and shoes so worn out they were falling off his feet. It’s always tempting with some homeless people who ask for money to wonder how in need of help they are. There was no wondering with this guy – he did not look in a good way.
I walked into my breakfast place ignoring the ragged man out on the street, and instantly regretted not having gone up to him to ask if I could get him anything to eat or drink. Inside by now I felt too embarrassed, and ashamed of my lack of compassion, to turn around and approach him. I ordered my coffee and breakfast.
Then, thank God for second chances; thank the God *of* second chances – the homeless man came in to ask for some milk in a coffee he had. The milk was given. As the man turned to go I asked him if he wanted anything to eat. He said he was alright, but thanks for asking. I paid and left the shop.
As I passed the man now sat beside the shop he said thanks and said he hoped I had a good day. I wished him the same. At that moment he seemed to me suddenly more beautiful than anything else around; certainly more beautiful than the hordes of suits ignoring him and me. Beautiful exactly how he was: beautiful in his filthy state; beautiful in his ragged clothes; beautiful in his toe-flapping shoes. He seemed the most fully alive thing I could see – so alive I wanted to embrace him.
By the grace of God I saw him for who he truly was: a beloved child of God, every bit as loved as any and every human being.