The smell from the basement pub still lingers in my mind. The combination of beer, sweat, and grime from living on the streets was intense, overwhelming, and numbing. I struggled with my reactions. I wanted to accept this stranger with matted hair, tattered clothes, and a weather shaped face, but everything within me demanded that I do something else.
A friend walked up to the stranger and asked, “Can I buy you a pint?”
I was lost. Where did this response come from?
I have come to appreciate the actions and impact that I experienced that day. On a personal level, it was extreme example of tangible compassion, empathy, and focus on an individual where he was. As I reacted to a more recent experience with an individual, this reminder took me back to the mantras that I discovered in South London.
There are ugly sides in everyone’s life. Past or present, known or hidden, there are elements where someone could say that “their way of life stank to high heaven; they lived like whores.” (Psalm 106.39) The ugliness in your life may not be this extreme, but it is still ugly.
We are where we are. With apologies to Yogi Berra, the saying is that where any one is in and at the present moment is just that; our present location. What follows is a rhetorical question that for many is obvious; do I need to change in order to experience the embrace of love, the umbrella of forgiveness, and the warmth of acceptance? Sadly, for many the answer is yes.
The greatest gift we can give is that of acceptance. It may seem difficult to accepted and embrace the stranger off the streets. From experience, it is even more difficult to accept and embrace myself in the state and place where I am.
Two individuals shared a gem of wisdom with me a long time ago. To each, thank-you. Your action then continues to inspire and motivate. My wish and prayer is that I may I give today what you gave to me then.