At Serve the City we actively seek to cross the lines that divide us in our cities, but sometimes, unexpectedly, the line comes to us. Sheryl McElwee of STC Dublin recently had this experience in Dublin with her son (in her words):
Today Andrew came to visit from London. We were in town for a while and as we were heading home, Andrew and I were walking together on the Quays. Some kind of fight broke out between a few young men. One young lad showed another what appeared to be a knife. All the guys seemed to be on drugs or drunk. Two lads walked off. Andrew and I crossed the street to get away from what appeared to be an escalating violent exchange. We were standing waiting for Alan. One of the men came flying across the street threatening Andrew. We walked quickly away but the man pursued us continuing to shout threats at Andrew. I told Andrew to run – just get away as I didn’t know if the man would try to hit him or if he had a weapon. Andrew ran quickly away assuming I was following behind.
At that moment I felt I needed to just stop.
I looked this man squarely in the eyes and asked gently “why do you want to hurt my son? He’s done nothing wrong. We are just waiting for my husband. You look upset are you ok?” At that question the man began to cry. It became clear that he was homeless and foreign. My heart broke for him. He told me how no one understands. He had tried so hard. He said he used to have a lot of money. He said now people look at him like he is nothing. All the while he was crying. I got a chance to tell him that I didn’t think he was nothing. I cried too and said I care. Please what is your name? Can I pray for you? He told me his name is Chris. He looked like he had been in a few fights with scars and bumps on his face.
To be honest it was a stupid thing to do. But sometimes you’ve got to be stupid. That’s where beauty resides, in our frailty, in our vulnerability, in our brokenness, in seeing those things in one another, in what seems completely stupid to others. Sometimes just sometimes we have to just sit with people in the ashes of their lives.
What I hope is that we all stop and think about those who are forced out on to the streets due to drugs or just plain old hard times and consider the person. They are something. Just show one small kindness. Stop and ask. Don’t look down on them. Don’t just look away. They all have a name.
Tonight my heart breaks for a man named Chris. I see you Chris. Thank you.
Thank you for your inspirational story, Sheryl!