I am thinking about London today. I guess watching Downton Abbey has spurred this line of thought. It has been 24 years since I visited my cousin, Marnie, in that beautiful city. It stands out as a stellar trip and brings up that energetic feeling of independence. It was my first time to hop on an airplane and just go.
Marnie worked during the week, so I spent my weekdays wandering the streets of London alone, too young to think that was a bad idea. I was particularly proud to have figured out the London Underground subway system—The Tube.
It was on one of these days riding the Tube that I saw a man who I can still picture clearly in my mind. He was in a dirty coat in the corner of the station. He held up a sign written in pencil on a piece of cardboard. I don’t remember exactly what the sign said, but it was obviously a call for help. His face was young, but etched with lines a person of his age should not have, most likely from circumstances of which a person of his age (or any age) should not have.
He was certainly not the only homeless person I saw on that trip. So, why does his face still come clearly to my memory? Because he was the one I was supposed to help. And I didn’t. I looked away, walked away, and hopped on the next train to my fun adventure. It didn’t hit me until a bit later in the day, when his face kept coming to my mind—a face devoid of hope.
What could I have done? Not much. In fact, it would not have been safe for me to reach out in unrealistic ways. But I could have smiled. I could have looked him in the eyes. I could have said hello. And that could have made a difference, even if a small one. Yes, he needed food and clothing. And he needed money and housing. Those things I could not have provided. But he also needed encouragement. He also needed just a bit of hope. But I kept walking afraid of him and his dirty, messed up life. Twenty-four years later, I still wish I had done just a little something.
As I have grown older, I have realized that the tenderness of our great God reaches down to those in need, usually through His servants. And His purposes are greater, His details are more intricate than we could ever imagine. I believe there is great purpose, great work for us to do each day. And it usually doesn’t take much effort—a smile, a hello, a kind word.
Who are you supposed to help today? What about those thoughts, those compliments, which come to your mind, but never out of your lips? Those words could make all the difference in someone’s life.
Don’t be afraid of the mess of another’s life. You don’t have to fix everything you just need to offer a bit of hope, a bit of kindness.
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James 2:26