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The Shelter

By Belinda
This is a very busy week, with a three day work conference to attend, so I went back to the archives and found this post from November 4 last year when I was on my way home from a visit to England.  I enjoyed re-reading it. I hope you don't mind being served some reruns! :) Oh, I just noticed that last year's comments came up too, as I republished! Just in case you wondered where they came from. :)

I was going home to Canada and my brother Rob drove me to Birmingham Airport to catch a coach to Manchester, the airport my plane was leaving from. Rob dropped me off half an hour before the coach was due to leave. The clocks had gone back an hour the night before and I was glad for the extra time that morning.

I had a large knapsack on my back and from behind me I heard a voice warning me that someone was entering the bus shelter and obviously wanted to avoid me swinging around and hitting him.

I turned to see a young man, pulling a small piece of luggage on wheels. He was slightly built, tanned, with medium length blond hair, parted on the side. He had blue eyes and a strong jawline. He wore a blue blazer and a striped shirt, open at the neck. I noticed the slight tremor and jerkiness of cerebral palsy in his movements.

We compared destinations—he was headed for Leeds, while I was headed for Manchester. My coach was due to leave at 8.35 and his 9.50. Since it was just past 8.00, I commented that he was very early for his coach. He said,“The hour changed, darling.”

I found out that he had just got off a plane from Tenerife, where he had worked in the time share business; not selling time shares, but selling the lifestyle.

“Do you enjoy doing that?” I asked.

His frank answer was a quick, “No. I make lots of money, but it’s all so fake.I’m a salesman, but that wasn’t my thing.”

“So you’re not going back?” I asked, and he said that no, he was on his way to Leeds where he owned a home with his ex partner. He was going there for a couple of days to stay with him and then heading for Bermuda. There he would join the crew of a wealthy gay businessman who entertains clients on his boat.

I said that Bermuda sounded wonderful.

He mentioned being thirty one and I asked him if he meant that was old or young, and said, “Because to me that’s very young.”

“No, I meant it’s old,” he said, “How old are you?”

I laughed and said, “Sixty.” That’s when he went into paroxysm of astonishment.

His blue eyes widened a string of expletives began to pour from his lips, punctuated by, “No, you can’t be!” repeated several times. He took several steps back, to view me from a distance, and then came back for a closer look (and I could smell alcohol on his breath.)

“But you’ve had work done?” he said, peering closely at my face now.

“No,” I was laughing at the hilarity of the moment.



“No way,” he swore again, “My mum is 74 and she doesn’t look anything like you."

And so we went on for the next several minutes. Him asking what I did to my face—I felt compelled to say something so I said that I avoid the sun, don’t smoke, moisturize, and am happy on the inside.

It was getting a bit embarrassing so I told him he was very sweet, hoping he would change the subject.

“No, not sweet!” he said, “I was about to chat you up!”

“Now that would just have been wrong!” I said, “I have children of 40 and 38 and six grandchildren.”

I told him my name and asked his, which, like my brother’s was Rob.

He facial expression became serious and he said that he was bad. I started to protest that, but he said that he smoked and drank too much. I hesitate to say this in case it is misunderstood, but I felt God’s overwhelming love for this man in that moment and I hugged him. My coach was pulling up and he grabbed my case and loaded it into the luggage compartment.

“You made my day, “I told him,  “And give up the smoking and drinking—it’s not good for you.”

I touched his hand to say thank you and goodbye, and he kissed me on both cheeks. We were strangers but it felt like we exchanged a sign of peace. I sensed pain, rejection, loneliness and emptiness. With a heart full of unspoken prayers I said, “God bless you."

As my coach pulled out and we waved goodbye, my prayers continued.

Today I read Hebrews 13.2  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers..., and I thought of this young man, Rob. Can a bus shelter be a place of hospitality? The conversation we had may seem funny or ridiculous, depending on your point of view, but there was another conversation going on, unspoken. That conversation spoke acceptance, care and love that came from somewhere other than me. I'm not so sure that I expressed it wisely or well, my actions were spontaneous, but I know the love came from God.

At work today in training, we watched Rob Bell's Nooma video, Bullhorn. The message comes through. The bullhorn doesn't work; but there's a world that needs to know His love and sometimes we only have minutes to express it.


Marilyn said…
I think your spontaneous hug was fabulous! Unstrategized, unplanned-for. This is how the world is touched for Him and we so often miss it, busy strategizing opportunities to witness in some officially recognized manner. "A cup of cold water," said Jesus and people go thirsty in so many ways while we build witnessing programs. (Oops, didn't mean to rant.). The way you connected it to Bell's "Bullhorn" was great, Belinda.
Brenda said… were Jesus in the flesh to that man. Give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it......and keep on doing what you did....planting seeds....wherever you go.
Belinda said…
I hardly dared open the blog tonight. I confess that I wondered if I conveyed what happened in a way that made sense. Or if it even did make sense! :) Marilyn and Brenda, your affirmation that it made sense to you, and more, that your hearts resonated too, was very important to me. Thank you!!
Susan said…
It made sense. Perfect sense...

Loved it. Every word. Every action you described.

It's so you. It's so you being your mother's daughter. And your Father's true son...
Angcat said…
The hug says it all...compassion, acceptance, love...

And a bus shelter, or anywhere, is the perfect place for hospitality. Because if where we are is where He is, then hospitality is welcoming others into our lives, wherever that may be.
Marian said…
Hey Belinda, thanks for being you!
Belinda said…
Dear Ang, Susan and Marion,
A bus shelter hug is coming to you, too! :)

Thank you for the affirmation. I needed it this time!
there are simply times where love is the only possible response - there are too many times when we are shy to do what needs to be done - there are too many people who are hurting - there are too few people who act on the care they feel ... good on you
Belinda said…
Friends, I am on a journey that is very real, concrete, exciting and profound. Walking it out feels risky and wonderful all rolled into one. Your encouragement helped me this time. One thing I know is that I loved that man in that moment and I'm loving him and praying for him still--that he will meet someone who will represent Christ to him truly, where he is next--I'm thinking he's in Bermuda now. We may never meet again but I'm not discounting even that possibility--because with God, nothing is too unusual or impossible.
Theresa said…
Beautiful story Belinda. There are so many hurting people who need to see the love of Christ. It is one thing to hear it and something totally different to see it. No doubt a seed was planted in that bus shelter.
Love it.
Belinda said…
I hope so Theresa. I wonder what happened next in his life.

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