Sunday, June 15, 2008

Love makes all the difference

His traditional Marathi dress made him stand out in any crowd, but especially on this Saturday morning when the sun shone. As I had just been grumbling to myself about the difficulty involved in keeping white clothes white, rather than off-white, I envied his dazzling attire as the man hurried along the road ahead of me.

He was in late middle age and was accompanied by a young man pushing a brown-paper-wrapped, large picture frame on a porter’s trolley. The youth was noticeable only insofar as the trolley appeared unwieldy, conspicuous and decidedly inconvenient in that part of London at 09.30 on a Saturday morning. Yet they successfully dodged the uneven parts of the pavement, intent on reaching some unknown destination.

A few minutes later, I found the pair standing beside a large building, confused and lost. The elder asked for directions as his companion balanced the picture frame with a great deal of discomfort. In excellent, although strongly accented, English, he named a street of which I had never heard. His costume was not only brilliantly white, it was also brand new, probably worn for the first time.

The two men were deeply anxious to locate the address. One of them pulled out a piece of paper, an agenda for a study day about a Guru of whom I had also never heard. He was almost pathetically eager to make sure that I had not misunderstood him. They both looked very worried, as if they did not know what to do next. It happened to be a rare occasion when, not only did I have time to spare, I also had an A-Z street map with me. It took only a few minutes to solve the problem.

Their abundant gratitude has been in my thoughts throughout the week.

Who was that man in white? Was he, perhaps, one of the speakers, perhaps the keynote speaker?

Although unknown to the vast majority of people in the area that Saturday morning, was he, perhaps, more than ‘just another Indian’ as I was ‘just another Englishwoman’? Would his arrival at his destination mean a special welcome and celebration? Did anybody outside his immediate circle of acquaintance know that there was someone special in their midst? Did his young companion feel himself ‘touched by greatness’?

Since most of us can boast of possessing a head, two arms and two legs, to outsiders, it is difficult, if not impossible, to assess a person’s qualities and talents at a glance. It is entirely possible that at least one person we meet in the course of a day, however ‘ordinary’ and ‘unspectacular’ that individual might seem to be, is extraordinary in the eyes of someone else.

A few days ago, on a station platform, I whiled away the time by chatting to a young man, a total stranger, about the baby girl in his care. The whole world could have seen, had they cared, that he was a father for the first time. No other child in the world had ever smiled, gurgled or been as well-behaved as she.

Love makes all the difference in the world!

God bless,
Sr. Janet