Thursday, 17 March 2016

On Waterloo Bridge

Last Saturday I was walking over Waterloo Bridge on my way to meet Rachel at the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House.

It was a bright spring day and I had just come from a URC Synod in Upminster so my mind was going over some of the issues that had been raised that morning - and I was looking forward to lunch at Pizza Express in The Strand!!

And then it happened.  Nothing dramatic but very meaningful to me.  And I played no part in it.  Just observed.

A rough sleeper - a young, intelligent looking guy, was holding out a plastic cup for coins.  He looked utterly dejected and hopeless as the world - including me - was passing him by.  And then the lady in front of me, walking alongside her husband, suddenly stopped, stooped down and offered the rough sleeper her plastic cup of Starbucks coffee.  It was just a moment - she did it 'on hoof' and at the spur of the moment.  But that isn't the point - the point is that I was privileged to see the beautiful look between these two individuals.  Her look of no nonsense compassion and his utter amazement and gratitude for it.  He barely had time to say 'thank you' - but he did manage it - and all too briefly their encounter ended and she walked on to greet the rest of her day.

It was the look between them that I confess made my eyes moist.  Such a beautiful look of engagement. That momentary connection seemed to me to be so deep and profound.

I am not so naive as to claim this was in anyway an answer to the epidemic of rough sleeping that goes on in central London.  I know the young man would have had a complicated 'back story' and I'm grateful for the sort of ministry offered by St Martin in the Fields to assist such people in need.

No - all I'm saying, and no more, is that there was something so utterly beautiful in that brief moment between these two people and more particularly the look of surprise and gratitude on the young man's face at being offered a half cup of Starbucks on Waterloo Bridge.

And as I went off to a pizza - very much aware that it was the lady in front of me, rather than me, who had shown such compassion -  the words of Jesus rang in my ears all afternoon - something about offering a 'cup of cold water in my name...'

Best wishes,


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