Monday, 15 June 2009

On a bus

On a bus ride home last week, gazing out of the window into the fading light, my idle daydream was interupted by a young man banging on the window, by my face, looking me in the eye, and yelling "you're ugly!" as the bus pulled out.

At the time it sort of just washed over me. A bit taken aback, I wasn't particularly hurt or bothered, more bemused. I soon forgot about it.

Until last night, riding a different bus home. Gazing out of the window, my thoughts went back to that encounter, and suddenly my heart filled with incredulousness at the injustice of it, the anger and hurt at how cruel people can be, for no apparent reason. Whizzing around my brain were any number of scenarios involving retaliation or retribution, ranging from getting off the bus to deliver a particular pointed and cutting lecture about every person's inherent worth and value and his lack of respect towards women, to simply walloping him whilst yelling any combination of choice names at him.

Catching myself, I realised somewhat ashamedly that clearly I was holding onto this, with no trace of mercy or forgiveness. So I found myself praying a quick prayer...

"I'm sorry Lord, please forgive me, and help me forgive this young man. He was drunk, and a bit lary, and trying to impress his friends..."

And then I realised, my basis for forgiveness here was justification. There I was, trying to write off what he'd done, explain it away, find a reason as to why he did it that somehow took the direct blame from him. Cos finding a way where he became less culpable, where what had happened could be somehow justified, or made less bad, seemed to make it easier to summon feelings of forgiveness.

That's not how it works, Heath.

"But this is hard! How can I let this go? Small as it was, it hurts. He was mean to me! I'm angry! How can I let a action like that just go? Without even an apology! How can I forgive that man?"

Staring into my hands, clutching my oyster card, feeling hard done by, a mix of anger and hurt at the injustice of it all. And knowing that I really did want to try to show grace and love, frustrated that those feelings eluded me. All over one random incident on a journey home, perpetrated by someone who did not even know me and so whose words really shouldn't carry such weight.

"This is hard."

I know, Heath.

Eyes, looking at me, into my own eyes, into my heart. Eyes showing sadness, showing understanding too, but greater than those things, eyes showing such depths of love.

I know. This way is hard.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

LondonHeather vs The Wall

On Wednesday night, LondonHeather set out after work on a walk to Westminster, deciding in the light of the tube strike that a walk through London on a mild June evening would be preferable to sitting on a packed bus in gridlocked traffic. Awaiting her in Westminster- some friends and an Evening with Tony Campolo. Setting off briskly, printed instructions from an online mapping service clutched in one hand, LondonHeather marched through the City, weaving through the commuters, aiming to get down to the Thames, to follow the Victoria Embankment round to Westminster Bridge.

Oh the elusive Thames! LondonHeather could see it, but she could not find a way to get to the path. She had passed the Millennium Bridge, the way shown on her map instructions was not apparent, and her next hope, Blackfriars Bridge, was closed. Starting to fret at the Kafka-esque nature of her situation, LondonHeather retraced some steps to a side road, down which she could see lots of traffic, but beyond a wall, people walking along by the Thames. Although not designed for pedestrians, LondonHeather balanced her way down the thin strip of pavement, and dodged through the three-lane traffic (made easier by the gridlock), to the small length of pavement by the wall. But from here, she realised her mistake- there was no way through, just wall and traffic as far as she could see in both directions.

Gazing over the wall, frustrated that the path was so near and yet so far, LondonHeather became aware that as the only pedestrian on that side of the wall, any action she took would give her an audience of frustrated motorists on one side, and bemused walkers the other side. Trying to laugh in the face of such embarrassing attention, LondonHeather hoisted herself onto the wall, intending to jump down the other side. Swinging her legs over, she got ready to jump...

...and found she couldn't. What had been at shoulder height on the traffic side, turned out to be at head height on the pedestrian side, and LondonHeather had never been very good with heights. Even reasoning that the drop really wasn't that far and if she landed with bent knees she'd be okay didn't help. So LondonHeather sat, legs hanging over the side, bemused pedestrians walking past her, aware of the rows of cars at her back, and looked out at the Thames, tears welling in her eyes.

She hated the fact she wasn't brave enough to jump; she immensely disliked how on display her actions were; and she did not want to be late for her friends, as she was the one with tickets to this event. Taking a deep breath, she decided the best thing to do would be to go back the way she came, and, though it might take more time, find a more sensible route to the path. She jumped down, and as she grabbed her bag, a voice said her name.

LondonHeather turned to face a colleague from work, standing on the path, the other side of the wall, asking with curiosity what she was doing there. Explaining her predicament, he smiled kindly and said that although he didn't know of anywhere nearby to get through, he'd help her jump down onto the path. So LondonHeather hoisted herself back onto the wall again, swung her legs over, took his outstretched hand, and...

...sat. She just couldn't do it, hand or no hand. Feeling like a coward and a fool, LondonHeather sat there, not knowing what to do next. This was a kind colleague though, and, sensing her embarrassment and distress, he did not mock, but instead offered a simpler solution. And so that is how LondonHeather found herself being carried off a wall and onto a path by one of her work colleagues on a warm summer night in London.

As she continued her journey, after thanking her colleague profusely, she could not help but grin at the circumstances, and wonder whether Him Upstairs had had a hand in this. Bringing her to a point where she was unable to get through alone, and providing possibly the most unlikely solution. Aside from hearing Tony Campolo speak later on, this had to be the highlight of her Wednesday evening.

"...by my God have I leaped over a wall."
2 Samuel 22:30