Two Pigeons & a Homeless Man Preaching

Two incidents, unrelated perhaps, gave me much to think about! Both happened on my way to and from a Ghanaian Service of Carols and Lessons at Kensington United Reformed Church on December 20 (2009) to which I was invited to share some Advent/Christmas thoughts.

On the way to this gathering, travelling on the tube (underground) from St. Pancras, I had to change trains at Edgware. I was pleasantly surprised (as was the other person who came in just after me) to find two pigeons making their way into the carriage. For those who do not know. This part of the route is over-ground. As other people boarded, the pigeons moved to the rear of the carriage pecking away at anything that looked like food while eyeing their human neighbours. They kept to themselves and at a safe distance – while journeying with the rest of us – without any ticket! Even more amusing was the fact that they exited at the next station. I wondered whether they continued their journey and whether this was their regular route.

The other incident happened on my return journey from Edgware to St Pancras. This was a crowded tube/train and in our midst was a guy who looked like a “rough sleeper”. He was carrying a large garbage bag and a rucksack. His intense look conjured up images of John the Baptist or more correctly John the wild. And, he lived up to that name as he started his own sermon on the tube:

“Is there a kind soul onboard? See me: I am homeless, tired and hungry. Can someone help this desperate man? I do not have the luxury to shop like most of you here, but can you give this poor man something…?”

And he continued while all turned the other way. He then looked directly at me, as he was standing near to me and I could not turn anywhere else, and directed his intense gaze and words my way:

“And you sir, can you share something with me from that fancy bag you are carrying…” Impulsively and before he could continue, I handed him the bag: “You can have it all brother!”, I shocked myself into mumbling. By this time we were pulling up at our next stop and everyone was now looking at me. “The whole bag”, he asked looking shocked – and before I could answer, he took it, gave me a few “cheers” and exited the train faster than Usain Bolt.

He was certainly shocked and I cannot tell whether he had intended to exit there. I myself do not know why I responded that way. It may be that here was a person so desperate that it moved me to compassion. Probably not! It may have been that I just wanted him to stop preaching or that I was very embarrassed. But that nice looking bag was what I got as my food or refreshment package from the Ghanaian Service I was just coming from. Later, one of my sons asked me (having recounted the incident) whether I would I have handed him a bag filled with more precious things, like my Christmas shopping for instance! I am not sure that I would have.

From experience, however, I am hesitant to draw quick conclusions, but I am willing to say this much: the Divine does move us in very mischievous and surprising ways – so we better watch out when a homeless person starts preaching, what we preach, pray for and what we carry in our designer shopping bags!

© copyright jagessar January 9, 2010

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