Thursday, March 27, 2008

Unlikely people

There was a time when, many years ago, I used to help my fellow students in giving hot soup and bread rolls at night to the down-and-outs clustered underneath a flyover in Coventry city centre. The soup was always ‘interesting’ and the creation of a gypsy (a genuine Romany) who, helping out as a cook in the Salvation Army hostel, tried to give the maximum nourishment and flavour with the minimum of effort. The soup was always ready and waiting for us to collect it from the hostel, provided in generous quantities and steaming hot.

Meeting the people for whom the food was intended was something that took a considerable amount of courage for one with no close acquaintance with alcoholism and alcoholics. It was also the first time that I had ever made the effort to speak to the homeless, sleeping rough even in the depths of winter.

Quite frankly, it was a learning experience. Even the dirtiest, most disreputable and incoherent individuals had a story to tell, often one that was humbling as they described their struggles to remain in mainstream society. It was sad to see the care with which bottles of methylated spirits were concealed for later and less public consumption.

Then there was the night when a man, dressed in filthy rags, who was rather the worse for wear, but still sensible, was speaking at length on religious matters, quoting Scripture with ease and at length. Intrigued, I asked why it was that he had such familiarity with the Bible.

“If it were not for God, I would not be alive today. I might be sleeping rough, but it is he who keeps me safe. It is God who keeps me going and gives me a reason to keep on living even when life is like this.”

God is in the most unlikely places and the most unlikely people!

God bless,
Sr. Janet